Following the tragic train accident that took place in Odisha’s Balasore district on June 2 claiming 275 lives, the Congress party described it as ‘a man-made devastation’ and demanded the resignation of Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.
According to Congress, there are several concrete grounds to demand accountability from the government.
Neglect in ‘signalling system’
On February 9, the principal chief operating manager of the South Western Railway zone raised concerns about the signal failure of an express train.
According to him, a serious unsafe incident happened at the Hosadurga Road station of the Birur-Chikjajur section of Mysore division on February 8. It involved the Sampark Kranti Express (Train no. 12649) that led to conditions for an averted head-on collision with a goods train.
“There are serious flaws in the system where the route of dispatch gets altered after a train starts on signals with the correct appearance of the route in the SMS panel. This contravenes the essence and basic principles of interlocking,” said the principal chief operating manager.
The officer cautioned that if the signal maintenance system was not monitored and corrected immediately, it could lead to “re-occurrence and serious accidents.”
‘Flip-flop’ signalling caused devastation
Preliminary investigating report stated that a green signal was given to the ill-fated Coromandel Express for passing through the Up Main Line. However, it was later taken off and perhaps this flip-flop led to the devastation, according to the Congress party in a statement released on Sunday.
Disregard shown by Railway Board
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on transport, tourism and culture slammed the Indian Railways Board for the disregard shown towards the recommendations of the Commission of Railway Safety (CRS).
According to the Standing Committee, “The main task of the CRS is to direct, advise and caution the Railway Board through its inspectorial, investigatory and advisory functions and thereby assisting them in ensuring that all stipulated measures are taken and standards are adhered to and implemented as regards the soundness of rail construction and safety in train operations.”
No discussion on safety during ‘Chintan Shivir’
In a high-level brainstorming ‘Chinatn Shivir’ headed by Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnav on Friday, just hours before the accident, presentations by various zones on railway safety were skipped. “Only one zone was allowed to make the presentation on safety, while the discussion on the launch of Vande Bharat trains and increasing revenue were allowed,” according to senior officers.
“There have been alarming derailments of goods trains in the recent months where loco pilots died and wagons were completely destroyed. This should have raised alarms,” said another railway official.
Alarms raised by CAG Report
Comptroller Auditor General of India (CAG) pointed out serious deficiencies. According to the audit report, almost 7 out of 10 rail accidents between 2017-18 and 2020-21 were derailments.
The report pointed out that the overall allotment of funds for track renewal was on the decline, and even the allocated funds were not utilized completely.
“In light of this, it becomes alarming given that the report also states that 26% of the total derailments during 2017-21 were linked to track renewals,” the Congress mentions in its statement.
The report also suggests that the allotment of funds for track renewal works declined from Rs 9,607.65 crore (2018-19) to Rs 7,417 crore in 2019-20.
“The funds allocated to track renewal works were also not fully utilized,” it said. “Out of 1127 derailments during 2017-21, 289 derailments (26 per cent) were linked to track renewals.”
According to the audit report, “23 factors responsible for derailments in the selected 1129 cases/accidents.
Out of 23 factors, the major factor responsible for derailment was related ‘maintenance of track’ (167 cases), followed by ‘deviation of track parameters beyond permissible limits’ (149 cases) and ‘bad driving/ overspeeding’ (144 cases).
As per an RTI revelation, more than 3.11 lakh posts out of 14,75,623 Group C posts and 3,018 out of the sanctioned 18,881 gazetted cadre positions are lying vacant in various departments of the Indian Railways.
A majority of the 39 railway zones and production units lack the required human resource.
KAVACH coverage was inadequate in the region
According to the Congress party, none of the trains in the Odisha mishap were equipped with anti-collision equipment nor was the section covered by the National Automatic Train Protection System or KAVACH.
Taking a dig at the massive promotion of the KAVACH scheme, the high voltage campaign by the Modi government and railway minister, only 4 percent were sanctioned on 35,736 kms of the high-density network covered by KAVACH, despite three private vendors already working on it.
Congress questions Modi government
The Congress has asked when is PM Modi demanding the resignation from his railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, who overshadowed the serious deficiencies, criminal negligence and complete disregard for the safety and security of passengers.
The Congress questioned why the Modi government failed to spend enough on railway safety. And who is responsible for the rail tragedy?
The Congress asked the Modi government when will the full implementation of the much-hyped KAVACH anti-collision system happen.
The Congress asked the Modi government when does it plan to fill up the over 3 lakh positions lying vacant in the Indian Railways?