Blaming “criminal negligence” for the Uttar Pradesh train accident, the Congress on Sunday said Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu must accept responsibility since he “failed to perform his primary duty to secure passenger safety”.
The party also demanded a reply from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the derailment of the Kalinga Utkal Express in Muzaffarpur distict on Saturday night that claimed 20 lives and left 92 injured, 22 in critical condition.
“The tragic and scary derailment has once again brought back focus on the dismal track record of the BJP-led government and the Railway Ministry on rail safety,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said in a statement.
“The Minister and railway authorities appear to be setting new records in laxity and unpreparedness with regard to safety and security of passengers. The minister must own responsibility,” he added.
“The Railway Minister, who continuously unveils grand schemes of privatisation and spends much time on Twitter, has utterly failed to secure rail passengers. People are demanding basic facilities and a safe rail network.”
Surjewala said: “Reports suggested a massive miscommunication led to derailment of at least 14 coaches. It is a sad commentary on the absence of safeguards and vulnerability in which train system operates, not to mention the criminal negligence involved.
“Forget bullet trains, 27 train accidents have taken place since the Narandra Modi government took office (in May 2014). Six major tragedies have occurred in Uttar Pradesh alone in 15 months.
“Every time, railway authorities invent a fresh conspiracy to wash hands of culpability but the facts speak otherwise. Even in the present accident, miscommunication, misconduct and total disregard for passenger safety are prima facie apparent,” the Congress leader added.
He said rail fares had increased by 70 per cent since May 2014 but no concrete blueprint was laid to secure passenger lives.
The Congress leader said signalling work was underway on the tracks at the spot for two days, but still no train driver was cautioned.
He questioned why a train suppposed to move at 15-20 km per hour speed on “loose coupling track” at 105 km per hour.