Odisha three-train crash: Clamour for Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw’s scalp grows louder

At least 288 people were confirmed killed in the triple train tragedy and more than 1,100 injured are being treated in several hospitals.

ByAjay Tomar

Published Jun 03, 2023 | 5:03 PMUpdated Jun 03, 2023 | 9:24 PM

Odisha three-train crash: Clamour for Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw’s scalp grows louder

Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw will need a special kavach — or armour — to continue in office after the disastrous three-train collision in Odisha’s Balasore district.

The deadly crash involved the Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express, the Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express, and a freight train. It has, so far, killed 288 people, and injured 1,100 others.

Close on the heels of the deadly accident, several Opposition parties and leaders demanded Vaishnaw’s resignation.

The Opposition also raised questions about the Railways signaling system. It has been believed that a faulty system led to the devastating crash.

Contradicting its earlier statement, the Railways said on Saturday that the Coromandel Express took the wrong track — a loop line — and crashed into the stationary freight train.

The passenger train’s 21 coaches derailed and three of them infringed the next track on which the Bengaluru-Howrah Express was coming.

Three Union Railway Ministers had stepped down in the past on moral grounds after major accidents.

Also read: A look at other major rail tragedies and ministers who resigned

TMC, CPI demand Vaishnaw’s resignation

CPI leader and a Member of the Rajya Sabha, Binoy Viswam, said the government was focusing only on luxury trains, neglecting others and railway tracks.

“Government concentrate only on luxury trains. Trains and tracks of common people are neglected. Orissa deaths are the result of it. Rail minister should resign,” Binoy Viswam said on social media.

All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) general secretary Abhishek Baneerjee alleged that on one hand the government resorts to software such as Pegasus to spy on opposition leaders, SC judges, journalists but neglects to implement GPS and anti-collision (Kavach system) devices to prevent unfortunate incidents.”

The Kavach alerts a loco pilot when he or she jumps a signal, takes control of the brakes, and automatically stops the train if another train is on the same track.

The Railways spokesperson, Amitabh Sharma, said after the Odisha accident that Kavach was not implemented on the route.

Also read: Helpline numbers set up for inquiries about 3-train collision

Banerjee said Modi government has been boasting of Vande Bharat trains and newly constructed railway stations to bolster political support by “misleading the public”.

The TMC leader added that it was the impoverished and marginalized who bear the brunt of Centre’s actions, whether it be demonetisation, GST or inadequate railway safety measures.

“My heart goes out to the families who lost their loved ones and wishing a speedy recovery to the injured and if there remains a semblance of conscience, the Railway Minister should resign. NOW!,” demanded Baneerje, TMC MP from Diamond Harbour constituency.

Related: 4 lucky Kerala men and the tale of a long, horrific night

Claiming that the Kavach system has been installed only on 1,445 kilometres (two percent) of the total route length of 68,043 kilometres of Indian Railways, TMC national spokesperson Saket Gokhale and Lok Sabha MP from Dum Dum constituency Saugata Roy, too, sought Vaishnaw’s resignation.

“……Union Railways Minister @AshwiniVaishnaw MUST RESIGN IMMEDIATELY if he has any conscience or sense of responsibility and shame left in him,” Gokhale tweeted.

The Railways has initiated a high-level probe into the accident. Vaishnaw said that any conclusion could be drawn only after receiving the investigation report.

Expressing condolences to the bereaved families, Telangana IT Minister KT Rama Rao said, “……..What happened to the Anti Collision Devices ? This is indeed a tragedy of unheard proportions that should have never happened.”

Also read: Passenger on Coromandel Express narrates sequence of events

Maharashtra leaders seek Vaishanaw’s scalp

Speaking to the reporters at the Nagpur airport, former Maharashtra chief minister and leader of the Opposition, Ajit Pawar, termed the accident unfortunate and sought action against the guilty.

“The Railways should give importance to the lives of the passengers. Earlier, railway ministers used to resign. It is history. But nobody is ready to speak about it now,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) spokesperson Clyde Crasto said that demand of Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw’s resignation on moral grounds would not yield any result.

“If the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) believed in morality then it would have asked (outgoing WFI chief and party MP) Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh to resign a long time ago,” he alleged.

The Railways minister has announced a compensation of ₹10 lakh for the families of those who died, ₹2 lakh for with grievous injuries and ₹50,000 for minor injuries.

Meanwhile, senior Congress leader and MLA Balasaheb Thorat, too, urged Vaishnaw to step down.

“The Railway minister is absent when the prime minister inaugurates new trains. He should resign after this tragic accident,” he told a news conference.

ALL UPDATES: On the horrific accident that left at least 261 people dead

Twitter reacts

Former CBI Director and retired IPS officer M Nageswara Rao noted that Vaishnaw was not a full-time Railway minister as he has also been holding the Communication and Electronics & Information Technology portfolios.

“….. And whatever little time he can spare for @RailMinIndia, he is busy with making arrangements for Modi Ji to inaugurate the same #VandeBharatExpress trains again and again in all parts of the country,” Rao alleged.

He called for filing cases against the Railway Ministry so that it would pay the families who lost their earning members.

Several other users on Twitter, too, clamoured for Vaishnaw’s resignation.