The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is meant to investigate crimes and not railway accidents, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, a day after the Centre had said that CBI would probe the Balasore train accident.
Mr. Kharge, who had served as a Railway Minister in the Congress-UPA government, in four-page letter raised 11 points and said that “the roping in of yet another agency without the required expertise... shows that the government has no intention to address the systemic safety malaise but is instead finding diversionary tactics to derail any attempts to fix accountability”.
“The CBI, or any other law enforcement agency, cannot fix accountability for technical, institutional and political failures. In addition, they lack the technical expertise in railway safety, signalling, and maintenance practices,” the Congress chief said.
The Congress chief also recalled that after a derailment in 2016 in Kanpur, that claimed 150 lives, the government had handed over the investigation to the National investigation Agency (NIA).
“Subsequently, you yourself claimed in an election rally in 2017 that there was a “conspiracy”. The nation was assured that strictest punishment would be meted out. However, in 2018, the NIA closed the investigation and refused to file a chargesheet. The nation is still in the dark – who is responsible for 150 avoidable deaths?” Mr. Kharge said.
He said “all the empty safety claims” of Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw have now been “exposed” and the government must bring to light the real reasons that caused this grave accident. “Unfortunately, the people in charge – your goodself and Railway Minister Ashwani Vaishnaw – do not want to admit that there are problems,” he said.
Alleging that the Railways was being meted out a “step-motherly” treatment by the government, Mr. Kharge said there is serious concern among passengers about the deterioration in safety and therefore, it is incumbent upon the government to find out the real reasons that caused this grave accident.
The Congress chief also claimed that the merging of the Railway Budget with the General Budget has had an adverse impact and mentioned how the government ignored the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) as well as a parliamentary panel’s reports on rail safety.
At a press conference, Congress spokesperson Bhakta Charan Das, who was a Minister of State for Railways, said that the accident was a result of the “misgovernance” of the Central government as railway safety clearly stands ignored.
Mr. Das said Vande Bharat trains are being launched by PM Modi only for getting votes ahead of the 2024 election and officials are not concerned about safety any longer. “This Odisha accident is clearly a result of the misgovernance of the Government of India,” he said.