Modi govt compromised on basic rail safety issues: Congress after CRS report

Balasore tragedy was human error, says Jairam Ramesh

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh | PTI Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh | PTI

The Congress alleged on Tuesday that the Narendra Modi government has "thoroughly compromised" on basic issues of railway safety and claimed that a recent train tragedy in Odisha's Balasore was a result of human error at the root of which was the failure of the management and the political leadership.

A high-level inquiry has found "wrong signalling" to be the main reason for the accident involving three trains in Balasore and flagged "lapses at multiple levels" in the signalling and telecommunication (S&T) department, but indicated that the tragedy could have been averted if past red flags were reported.

Reacting to the report, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said, "This is what we have been saying all along. In the craze for inaugurating Vande Bharat trains, fixating on bullet trains and tinkering with specialised cadres, the Modi government has thoroughly compromised on basic issues of railway safety that don't make for photo-ops and headlines."

"Clearly, the Balasore tragedy was human error at the root of which is management failure, which includes the political leadership. What will it take to bring the overall approach to the railways back on track?" Ramesh asked in a tweet.

At a press conference at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) headquarters here, party spokesperson Supriya Shrinate also hit out at the BJP-led Centre over the report and said it is the government's responsibility to ensure that the passengers travelling by train reach their destinations safely.

"We would like to appeal that do not get into this business of hot food and new Vande Bharats. First ensure the safety of those travelling by train. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that people reach their destinations safely and not just keep flagging off trains," she said.

"All the lies of the government have fallen flat through this report," she added.

Congress MP Manickam Tagore slammed the government over the report and wondered how Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw could still hold on to his position when his "inaction killed hundreds of passengers who believed they won't die before reaching home".

The independent inquiry report submitted by the Commission of Railway Safety (CRS) to the Railway Board said notwithstanding the lapses in signalling work, remedial actions could have been taken by the S&T staff if the "repeated unusual behaviour" of switches connecting two parallel tracks was reported to them by the station manager of Bahanaga Bazar, the spot of the accident.

The report also suggested that the non-supply of the station-specific approved circuit diagram for the works to replace the electric lifting barrier at level-crossing gate number 94 at the Bahanaga Bazar station was a "wrong step that led to wrong wiring".

It said a team of field supervisors modified the wiring diagram and failed to replicate it.

The report also pointed out that there was a similar incident on May 16, 2022 at the Bankranayabaz station in the Khargpur division of the South Eastern Railway on account of wrong wiring and cable fault.

The Balasore accident involving the Chennai-bound Coromandel Express from Shalimar, the Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express and a stationary goods train took place near the Bahanaga Bazar railway station on June 2, leaving 292 people dead and more than 1,000 injured.

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