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Odisha rail tragedy: Cong demands Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw's resignation

New Delhi: The Congress on Sunday demanded the resignation of Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw over the Odisha rail tragedy, alleging that his "PR gimmicks" overshadowed the "serious deficiencies, criminal negligence and complete disregard for safety and security" of Indian Railways.

The Opposition party also said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should accept part of the responsibility of the "mess" which his government has inflicted on the Indian Railways and the people.  Addressing a press conference, Congress MP Shaktisinh Gohil and AICC's publicity and media department head Pawan Khera alleged that the Odisha rail tragedy was a "man-made devastation caused by "utter negligence, serious lapses in the system, incompetence, and a narcissistic sense of know-it-all attitude of the Modi government".

Prime Minister Modi, who has announced that the guilty would be punished, must first start with his Railway Minister, Khera said.  "Unequivocally and unambiguously we demand the resignation of the Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw. Nothing short of it," he said.

Earlier, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh alleged that railway safety had been compromised in the "PR campaign" of the prime minister and the railway minister.  "Recall that Lal Bahadur Shastri resigned in the wake of the Nov 1956 Ariyalur train disaster & Nitish Kumar did so following the ghastly Aug 1999 Gaisal train tragedy," he said in a tweet.

At the presser, Gohil and Khera posed questions to the government and asked when will PM Modi demand the resignation from his Railway Minister Vaishnaw.

They alleged that Vaishnaw's "over the top publicity, theatrics and PR gimmicks overshadowed the serious deficiencies, criminal negligence and complete disregard for safety and security of Indian Railways".

"PM Modi, himself is responsible for a green-flagging spree of Vande Bharat Express trains. He himself is responsible for creating this 'all is well' facade in the Indian Railways, even as crucial, sensitive, and critical infrastructure of the Indian Railway languishes in neglect," Gohil and Khera said in their statement.

"We demand that despite multiple warnings by the CAG, Parliamentary Standing Committees, and experts – why did the Modi government not spend on sprucing up Railway Safety?" they said.

Who is responsible for the deadliest rail tragedy in independent India, Gohil and Khera asked.

Would only lower or mid-level functionaries bear the brunt of accountability or will the executive who takes all the credit for Vande Bharat trains also be held accountable for this brazen disregard for safety standards, they asked.

The Congress leaders also asked when will the Modi government implement the much-hyped KAVACH Anti-Collision system nationwide, after testing.

Gohil and Khera asked when will the government pump more funds in the Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK) and fill up the three lakh plus vacant positions in the Indian Railways.

The crash involving Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express and Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express, which were carrying around 2,500 passengers, and a goods train occurred around 7 pm on Friday near the Bahanaga Bazar station in Balasore. At least 288 people were dead and over 1,100 injured in the accident. 

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