CBI probe into Balasore train accident nothing but ‘headlines’ management: Jairam Ramesh

Congress on Tuesday once again slammed the Centre for recommending a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into Balasore train accident in Odisha and termed it nothing but “headlines management” having failed to meet deadlines.

Targetting the government, party general secretary communications in charge Jairam Ramesh said, “Even before the Commissioner of Railway Safety has submitted his report on Balasore train disaster, a CBI inquiry is announced. This is nothing but headlines management having failed to meet deadlines.”

Citing the government decision to hand over the probe of the Patna-Indore Express train accident, in which 150 people to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), he said, “Now remember this chronology, on November 20, 2016, Indore-Patna Express derails near Kanpur. Over 150 people lose their lives. On January 23, 2017, then Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu writes to Union Home Minister asking for a NIA probe into this accident. On February 24, 2017, Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) says Kanpur train accident is a conspiracy. On October 21, 2018, newspapers report NIA will not file any charge sheet in the derailment. June 6, 2023, still no official news on NIA final report on Kanpur derailment. �Zero accountability!”

The government had ordered for a NIA probe into the Patna-Indore Express train derailment, which was raised by PM Modi during the crucial Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh in 2017.

The government has come under fire from the Opposition, including the Congress, for recommending a CBI probe into the Balasore train accident that led to the death of 275 passengers.

On Monday, government sources indicated that it was a case of “deliberate interference” in the system that came to the fore during the preliminary investigation, thus necessitating an investigation by a professional agency like the CBI.

While speaking to the media on Sunday, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said that the railway board has recommended a CBI probe into Friday’s horrifying accident.

Vaishnaw also said that the accident happened due to a change in electronic interlocking.

A government source on Monday here said that there is a need for a CBI probe even when the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) was already probing the incident, as the officials who were part of the preliminary investigation indicated the need for a more thorough investigation by a professional agency having expertise.

“Lots of information has come during the course of the investigation. Various kinds of information has been made available which required a professional investigative agency, ” the source said.

The accident in which a speeding Coromandel Express crashed into a stationary goods train on the loop line instead of travelling on the main line, “indicated issues” with the electronic interlocking system which changed the route of the train leading to the collision.

The source said, “Unless there is deliberate interference in the system, it is impossible that a route set for the main line is switched to the loop line.”

The ministry had earlier ruled out driver error or a malfunction in the interlocking system, and said that all angles are being probed extensively to come to the exact conclusion how this happened.

The Congress has been demanding the resignation of Vaishnaw for the horrific train accident near Odisha’s Bahanaga Bazar station, where 21 coaches of Chennai-bound Coromandel Express and Howrah-bound SMVP-Howrah Superfast Express derailed and led to death of 275 people and leaving over 800 injured.