Odisha train tragedy: Congress again targets Centre on CBI probe

by IANS |

New Delhi, June 6 (IANS) The Congress has again targeted the Centre for recommending a CBI probe into the Odisha train tragedy and also accused it of shifting the focus away from its "failures" by bringing in new conspiracy theories.

Addressing a press conference here at the party headquarters on Tuesday, Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said: "Instead of finding out what caused this grave accident, the government is now spinning conspiracy theories and shifting the focus away from the issue of safety."

She added that Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw should take moral responsibility and step down.

"Once again the Modi government is shifting the focus away from its own 'failures'. The government has refused to prioritise the safety of citizens.

"The reality is, accidents are happening because safety of passengers is not the priority of this government," Shrinate added.

Taking a swipe at the Centre, she said that it had transferred the probe of the 2016 Patna-Indore Express and 2017 Andhra train derailment to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

However, even after seven years, the NIA is yet to file a chargesheet in both cases, the spokesperson claimed.

She said the two accidents claimed the lives of around 200 people.

The Congress leader further said that Railway experts should probe the June 2 Balasore train tragedy and the Centre must not involve any of the central probe agency to divert attention from the incident.

Firing salvos at the government for recommending the CBI probe, she said: "Will the CBI find out why the budget for track repair and laying of new tracks which was Rs 9,607 crore in 2018-19 reduced to Rs 7,417 crores in 2019-20?

"Will the CBI find out why only one zone was allowed to speak in the Rail Chintan Shivir when every zone was supposed to speak on security and why the focus in this camp was on 'Vande Bharat' Express trains. Will the CBI find out why the funding of the National Rail Safety Fund has been reduced by 79 per cent? Will the CBI find out why the annual budget of Rs 20,000 crore was not allocated to the National Rail Safety Fund, as promised?

"Will the CBI find out why more than 3 lakh posts are lying vacant in the Railway department? Will CBI find out why the loco pilots are being made to work for more than 12 hours?"

On Monday, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, expressing concerns about the safety of passengers.

In his letter, Kharge wrote, "The devastating train accident in Balasore, Odisha, one of the worst in Indian history, has shocked the nation.The train accident has been an 'eye opener' for all of us. All the 'empty' safety claims of the Railway Minister (Vaishnaw) have now been exposed."

The Railway Ministry had earlier ruled out driver error or a malfunction in the interlocking system, and said that all angles are being probed extensively to come to the exact conclusion how this happened.

On Sunday, while speaking to the media, Vaishnaw said that the railway board has recommended a CBI probe into the horrifying accident which left 278 people dead and around 1,000 others injured.

Vaishnaw also said that the accident happened due to a change in electronic interlocking.

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