New Delhi, Jun 4 (IANS): The Congress on Sunday launched a scathing attack on the BJP-led Centre over the triple train accident in Odisha's Balasore, accusing it of only flagging off newly whitewashed trains instead of focusing on the rail safety, and also sought "accountability from top to bottom".
The Congress also highlighted several reports of lapses on the part of railways including the failure to fill some crucial posts.
In a series of tweets, Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge led the attack on the government and said, "Questions to the Modi government on perhaps the most painful train accident of Independent India -- Advertising PR gimmicks have made the working system of the Modi government hollow."
Firing salvos at the government, Kharge cited several reports that said, "Three lakh posts are vacant in Railways, the posts of big officers are also vacant which the PMO fills, why were they not filled in nine years?
"The Railway Board itself has recently admitted that long working hours of loco pilots due to acute shortage of manpower is the main reason for the increasing number of accidents. Then why were the posts not filled? The Principal Chief Operating Manager of South Western Railway Zone urged and warned to repair the signalling system on February 8, 2023, citing a tragedy in Mysore in which two trains were saved from collision. Why didn't the Ministry of Railways implement it?"
The Congress president also said that the Parliamentary Standing Committee in its 323rd report criticized the Railways for the "disregard" shown by the Railway Board towards the recommendations of the Commission of Railway Safety (CRS).
"It was said that CRS investigates only 8-10 per cent of accidents, why was it not strengthened?" he asked.
Citing the Comptroller Auditor General (CAG) report, Kharge said that in the latest CAG audit report, between 2017-18 and 2020-21, almost seven out of 10 train accidents happened due to train derailment.
"In 2017-21, there was zero testing of rails and welds (Track Maintenance) for safety in East Coast Railway. Why was it sidelined?" Kharge asked.
He also said that as per CAG why 79 per cent funding work was done in Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK), while Rs 20,000 crore was to be made available every year.
"Why has there been a huge decline in the amount of track renewal works?" the Congress leader said, adding that the train collision avoidance system developed by India's Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO) in 2011 was renamed by the Modi government as "Kavach" and was demonstrated by the Railway Minister himself in March 2022.
"Still why kavach on only 4 per cent routes till now? You are busy flagging off the whitewashed trains every day but do not pay any attention to rail safety.
"Accountability of the posts from top to bottom has to be fixed so that such accidents can be prevented from happening in future. Only then the victims of this accident will get justice," Kharge said.
His remarks came two days after a massive train accident involving two express -- Coromandel Express and SMVP-Howrah Superfast Express -- and a stationary goods train in Odisha's Bahanaga railway station on Friday evening. At least 21 coaches of the two trains derailed that led to death of 288 people and leaving 1,000 injured.