Odisha train crash: Oppn leaders flag questions over passenger safety, some call for Ashwini Vaishnaw's resignation

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said there are many questions to ask of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Railway Minister
Last Updated : 03 June 2023, 15:53 IST

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A "shocked" Opposition on Saturday raised questions about rail safety in the country following the train accident in Odisha and demanded a thorough investigation into the tragedy amid calls for fixing accountability.

The Congress called the Friday night incident in which three trains collided in Odisha's Balasore killing at least 288 people as "horrendous" while emphasising that safety should be the foremost priority in the functioning of the rail network.

While CPI(M) said "serious questions on matters concerning railway safety should be the priority which cannot be ignored in the plans for modernisation by the Modi government", Trinamool Congress demanded a thorough probe into the incident. There were also calls by RJD and CPI for the resignation of Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said there are many questions to ask of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Railway Minister but those could wait since the immediate task is of rescue and relief.

"At this moment of a grave national tragedy on account of the terrible train disaster in Odisha, I have instructed the entire Congress party organisation to extend all possible help," he said while instructing Congress's Leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Odisha in-charge A Chellakumar to rush to Balasore to coordinate party's relief efforts.

Describing the accident as "truly horrendous and a matter of greatest anguish", Congress General Secretary (Communications) Jairam Ramesh tweeted,"it reinforces why safety should always be the foremost priority in the functioning of the rail network. There are many legitimate questions that need to be raised but that should wait till tomorrow."

Urging the authorities to prevent a rise in the death toll by ensuring speedy and urgent medical attention to the injured, the CPI(M) said the reasons leading to the accident have to be established through a thorough probe.

Also a former Railway Minister, Mamata, who flew to the accident site, said it was the "biggest" train accident of this century while emphasising on the need for a proper investigation.

"Something must be behind this. The truth must come out. Why didn't the anti-collision system work?" she said.

CPI(ML) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya too raised the issue of signalling and safety systems in Indian railways. "Or will such terrible tragedies become the new normal for rail travel in India? We owe an answer to the victims and to the families who lost their near and dear ones in this mishap," he tweeted.

CPI's Binoy Viswam alleged that the government concentrates only on luxury trains. "Trains and tracks of common people are neglected. Odisha deaths are the result of it. Rail minister should resign," he tweeted.

Congress Odisha MP Saptagiri Ulaka said tagging a tweet of Vaishnaw on Twitter, "you should resign first. Ask some person to investigate the reason for this mishap and do course corrections, as well as ensure support to the injured. Avoid such insensitive tweets at times of pain, anger and deep personal loss."

JD(U) leader and Bihar Minister Sanjay Kumar Jha highlighted that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had resigned as Railway Minister in August 1999 after the Gasel train tragedy.

Gurdeep Sappal, Co-ordinator in the Congress president's office, demanded Vaishnaw's resignation and said that such an action is expected not just on moral grounds. "Resignation is also a means to ensure that those in power and accountability for the accident do not influence such 'high-level enquiry'. That's why the norm is that the officers in the chain of command are suspended and the minister resigns!" he said.

DMK deputy general secretary A Raja sought to know from the Union Government who will be held responsible for the train collision in Odisha on Friday. “We don’t want to politicise the incident. But even 24 hours after the accident, there is no clarity whether it is a human error or technical error?” he asked. The former Union Minister also wondered what was the use of advanced technology when such accidents cannot be averted.

Published 03 June 2023, 14:08 IST

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