Indian train crash: Criminal negligence case opened as government faces criticism | Business Upturn

Indian train crash: Criminal negligence case opened as government faces criticism

Police investigate signal failure in fatal accident that claimed 275 lives

Police in the Indian state of Odisha have launched a criminal case of “death by negligence” following the devastating train crash on Friday, which resulted in the tragic loss of 275 lives. As the investigation unfolds, critics have accused the government of attempting to shift blame for the disaster. The collision occurred due to a signal failure, causing the Coromandel Express train to switch tracks onto the loop line where a stationary freight train loaded with heavy iron ore was positioned.

The collision between the two trains was so intense that carriages from the express train, carrying over 1,200 passengers, overturned onto the opposite tracks, causing the Howrah superfast express train to derail with catastrophic consequences. In the subsequent two-day rescue operation, conducted by the national disaster response force and hundreds of volunteers, survivors and bodies were painstakingly recovered from the wreckage. Many families continue to face difficulties in locating the remains of their loved ones, as over 100 bodies remain unidentified.

Despite fears that the death toll may rise further, as more than 300 of the 1,175 injured individuals remain hospitalized, including some in critical condition, passenger and freight train services resumed along the affected route by Monday. Netting has been placed over the mangled carriages still scattered near the tracks to shield them from the view of passengers.

Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, along with members of the railway board, has highlighted a failure in the track management system as the focus of the investigation. This system, responsible for coordinating and controlling signals for approaching trains, is designed to direct them to empty tracks. It appears that the automatic “interlocking system” malfunctioned, causing the Coromandel Express train to be routed onto the loop track. Vaishnaw, who is facing calls to resign, has stated that the “root cause and the people responsible for the criminal act” have been determined, without specifying whether the failure was due to technical faults, human error, or sabotage.

The signaling system in question is used throughout India’s extensive 40,000-mile railway network. As a result, the railway board has ordered a comprehensive examination of the system across all 19 zones in the country, with safety reports expected to be submitted by next week.

Additionally, the government has requested the involvement of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to launch a criminal investigation into the collision. This move indicates the possibility of arrests being made. A team from the CBI has visited the crash site to determine if any criminal tampering contributed to the signal failure.

During a visit to the site on Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured that those found guilty would face severe punishment. The Commissioner of Railway Safety has also initiated an investigation, with a report expected within two weeks. The Chairman of the Railway Board is scheduled to provide updates on the investigation to the prime minister and top officials on Tuesday.

Opponents of the Modi government have accused it of attempting to divert attention away from examining systemic safety issues within the railway network and accepting responsibility for the disaster. It has come to light that a similar incident involving an interlocking system failure occurred in the state of Karnataka in February. However, the train driver noticed the issue in time and prevented a collision by stopping the train before it was directed onto the wrong track.

The railways continue to be a vital lifeline in India, serving approximately 13 million passengers daily. Although the government has invested billions in modernizing the country’s colonial-era railways, introducing superfast trains, maintenance, safety measures, and necessary upgrades have suffered from inadequate funding and staffing. On Monday morning, another freight train carrying limestone derailed in Odisha, fortunately without injuries.

Mallikarjun Kharge, the President of the opposition Congress party, criticized the government for its “apathy and negligence” concerning rail safety. He argued that “red flags” had been overlooked and questioned the involvement of a criminal investigation agency in examining the incident, stating that the CBI’s role is to investigate crimes, not railway accidents.

King Charles sent a letter to Indian President Droupadi Murmu, offering his condolences over the disaster. He expressed profound shock and sadness over the tragedy, recalling his visit to Odisha in 1980 and the fond memories of meeting its people.

The investigation into the train crash continues, and the focus remains on uncovering the exact causes and determining accountability for this devastating accident. The incident highlights the need for improved safety measures and increased investment in India’s railway infrastructure to prevent such tragedies from occurring in the future.