CBI probe into Balasore train accident a diversionary tactic: Ex-Rail Min Pawan Bansal

by IANS |

New Delhi, June 5 (IANS) A day after Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw recommended a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the horrific train accident in Odisha's Balasore, the Congress on Monday dubbed it a "diversionary tactic".

Speaking to IANS at the party headquarters, Congress leader Pawan Bansal pointed out, "Our party president (Mallikarjun Kharge) has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and as a person I agree to it. I fail to understand the rationale behind marking the inquiry to the CBI."

Bansal, who himself is a former Railway Minister, hit back at the government saying, "On Sunday, the Minister himself has said that there is an error in the electronic interlocking system, which controls signalling and enables the trains to move."

His remarks came a day after Vaishnaw said that the Railway Board has recommended a CBI probe to investigate the accident. Railway Minister Vaishnaw has come under fire from Congress, as it has demanded his resignation, citing several reports and audits that highlighted the lapses on part of Railways.

Earlier on Sunday, he also said that the accident happened due to a change in electronic interlocking. Who is responsible for the change in electronic interlocking will be known during investigation," Vaishnaw had said.

The Congress leader further said that the interlocking system being used right now is a "highly computerized system".

"However, in recent months a senior officer of the railways has cautioned the government that such a thing (error in signalling) can happen," Bansal said referring to the report by Railways citing signaling failure.

He said that the government is not telling the people about the "corrective measures" it has taken after the report submitted with the Railway Board, that the government is not addressing what is the report, what action it has taken and what action it took on the CAG audit report that was tabled in the house (Parliament).

Bansal, targeting the government, also said that there are several other factors like why less allocation of funds for safety, track renewal, why the amount spared for rail safety is not being spent. "Therefore there are other factors and questions that the government is liable to answer and not let pass the buck that CBI should probe the train accident," Bansal, who is also the treasurer of Congress said.

To a question about transferring the Patna-Indore Express train derailment in 2016 to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and even the Prime Minister suggesting a sabotage angle, the Congress leader said, "They have not said this (sabotage) here now. If this specifically comes from the (railway) Minister then we would accept it.

"But now one is left to wonder whether it is a diversionary tactic. I hope it is not whether they draw attention away from the main facts that there is a failure of the interlocking system. How this happened was that the train which was supposed to move on the main line came on the loop line. That is the question they have to answer," he said.

When asked about Rahul Gandhi targeting the BJP and the RSS for blaming the past for every incident, Bansal said, "He is absolutely correct. BJP always sermonises everyone and they say that they know all and be all of the government and they are the repository of world wisdom."

On Sunday, even Congress leader Rahul Gandhi intensified his attack on the BJP-led Centre, saying that the Prime Minister, BJP and the RSS have a habit of looking back and they have always blamed someone for the past.

Rahul Gandhi also said the Congress did not blame the British for the train accidents that took place during its rule but the minister took the responsibility.

The remarks of the former Railway Minister came days after at least 275 people died and over 800 were injured near Odisha's Bahanaga Bazar Railway station after 21 coaches of Coromandel Express and SMVP-Howrah Superfast Express derailed on Friday evening.

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