West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Sunday continued with her tirade against the Centre over the railway accident near Balasore in Odisha, which has claimed 275 lives. Questioning the death figures, Ms. Banerjee said 62 deceased were identified as citizens of West Bengal. The Trinamool Congress chairperson said 182 were missing from West Bengal and how could the figures of casualties change.
“There was no coordination and complete negligence. The government should have apologised for the accident. I apologise to the people on their behalf,” Ms. Banerjee told journalists. The former Railway Minister raised questions about why the Railway Budget was merged with the Union Budget and non-installation of anti-collision devices on the trains that met with the accident. On Saturday, Ms. Banerjee had visited the accident site near Balasore and had raised these issues in the presence of Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.
“I did not want to say something unpleasant. I did not want to attack anyone,” Ms. Banerjee said, adding that the BJP supporters had raised party slogans directed at her when she reached the accident site.
The Chief Minister announced ₹5 lakh compensation to the kin of the deceased, ₹50,000 to the injured and said all residents of the State who were travelling in the trains that met with the accident would be given ₹10,000 and ₹2,000 per month for three months. Ms. Banerjee said that since the Centre had brought 100 days of work to a halt in the State, people were forced to go out of the State looking for work. She said ₹7,000 crore funds under the MGNREGA had not been released by the Centre.
Many of those who have died in the accident are migrant workers who were on their way to southern States for work. Among the deceased were three brothers Nishikanta, Dibakar and Haran Gyne from Basanti in South 24 Parganas who were on their way to Andhra Pradesh for work.
Earlier in the day, Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari visited the accident site at Balasore and met the injured passengers. Mr. Adhikari was accompanied by BJP MLAs from West Bengal and Balasore BJP MP Pratap Sarangi. Mr. Adhikari said Ms. Banerjee was indulging in politics over the issue as if the country was going to the Lok Sabha polls the very next day. The BJP leader said the Trinamool leadership was “indulging in politics over dead bodies like vultures”.