In an unprecedented move intended to crack down on negligence in the railways, the railway ministry on Sunday sent on leave three senior officers, including a member of the railway board, for the Khatauli tragedy.
Stung by the accident and criticism by opposition parties, the ministry sent railway board member (engineering) Aditya Kumar Mittal, Northern Railways general manager R K Kulshrestha and divisional railway manager R N Singh on leave till further orders. Mittal was going to retire at the end of this month, but the strict action will send a signal to top officials about the current dispensation’s zero tolerance towards accidents.
Four officers, including the senior divisional engineer, Delhi division, were suspended while the chief track engineer was transferred.
Railway minister Suresh Prabhu has asked for responsibility to be fixed for the accident that killed 23 on Saturday.
The unprecedented action against senior officers comes at a time when railway minister Suresh Prabhu is under attack by opposition parties over rising accidents and under pressure to act.
On Sunday, Prabhu asked A K Mittal, chairman, railway board, to fix responsibility for the Utkal Express accident by evening. In a tweet, Prabhu said, “Will not allow laxity in operations by the board. Have directed CRB to fix responsibility on prima facie evidence by end of day.”
Will not allow laxity in operations by the Board. Have directed CRB to fix responsibility on prima facie
TOI has reported the driver of the train was unaware of track maintenance being carried out at the spot where the mishap occurred. An official said, “This is the first time in recent history that a member who is a secretary-level officer has been punished and sent on leave. The action reflects government’s zero tolerance against accidents.”
Acriminal complaint has also been lodged against unknown people for causing deaths by negligence under IPC section 304A. An unverified audio clip has surfaced in which railway operating department is heard sending out an alert about unsafe conditions at the site. In the clip, the station master and train controller talk about seeking a traffic ‘block’ of 20 minutes at Khatauli.