Rail Board chairman resigns; replaced by Air India chief, a railway service officer.
New Delhi: Hours after the Kaifiyat Express collided with a dumper in Uttar Pradesh, injuring 74 people, Union railway minister Suresh Prabhu, “pained by the unfortunate accidents and loss of precious lives”, offered to resign from his post taking “moral responsibility”.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi is yet to take a call on Mr Prabhu’s resignation, the Railway Board chairman, A.K. Mital, has been replaced by Air India chairman and managing director Ashwani Lohani.
Wednesday’s accident came five days after the Utkal Express derailment near Muzaffnagar on Saturday in which 23 people died and scores were injured.
In a series of tweets on Wednesday afternoon, Mr Prabhu wrote, “In less than three years as minister, I have devoted my blood and sweat for the betterment of the Railways… tried to overcome decades of neglect through systemic reforms in all areas… New India envisioned by PM deserves a Railways which is efficient and modern. I am extremely pained by the unfortunate accidents, injuries to passengers and loss of precious lives. It has caused me deep anguish. I met the Prime Minister, taking full moral responsibility. Hon’ble PM has asked me to wait.”
Sources said that Cabinet reshuffle is likely by weekend, before Mr Modi begins his China visit on September 3. There's speculation that Railways may be clubbed with transport ministry that's under Nitin Gadkari.
On Wednesday, apart from the accident in Uttar Pradesh, another train hit a tractor in Villuppuram near Chennai, and passengers of Puri-Lokmanyatilak Express escaped a mishap as the Mumbai-bound train took a wrong route due to alleged negligence of the Raja Athagarh station master. He has been suspended.
Following last week’s tragic accident, several political parties had demanded Mr Prabhu’s resignation, saying he should be held accountable for poor railway safety standards in the country.
Since Mr Prabhu took charge of the Railways in 2015, there have been 346 accidents. Since September 2015, there have been at least 28 major accidents and 277 people have lost their lives.
According to data released by the Railway minister after the Hirakhan Express accident earlier this year, 1.42 lakh positions for Railways safety staff lie vacant.
The new Railway board chairman, Mr Lohani, holds a degree in mechanical engineering and has previously served as a divisional railway manager for the Delhi division of Indian Railways. He replaces Mr Mittal, who was asked to go on leave on Tuesday, but had tendered his resignation.
Earlier, Mr Pabhu had taken action against eight officials, including a member of the Railway Board, for the Utkal Express derailment.