NEW DELHI: Taking moral responsibility of two derailments within a week, Railways Minister Wednesday met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and offered to resign. But he was asked to wait.
Speculations are, however, rife of cabinet reshuffle later this month and there is a possibility of him being shifted out of railway ministry. Rumours are also doing rounds of government pondering over possibility of one big infrastructure ministry under Nitin Gadkari, the Union Minister of Road, Transport, Highways and Shipping.
Meanwhile, the heads rolled after the successive rail accidents as Air India Chief Managing Director Ashwani Lohani was appointed as Chairman Railway Board in place of A K Mital, who resigned after the latest accidents.
Mital, who was on a two year extension and with term till July 2018, had tendered resignation late Tuesday and it was accepted Wednesday. Railway Board has sent some names, including that of Lohani and the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet approved his name. He is expected to take charge Thursday.
According to sources in Railway Board, Prabhu was very upset following Utkal Express derailment and Kaifiyat Express derailment in Uttar Pradesh Wednesday morning turned out to be a serious blow. He reportedly made a phone call to prime minister early morning offering his resignation but was asked to attend the cabinet meeting.
Prabhu met prime minister after the cabinet meeting and was asked to wait as he expressed his wish to resign.
"I met the Honorable Prime Minister taking full moral responsibility. Honorable PM has asked me to wait. I am extremely pained by the unfortunate accidents, injuries to passengers and loss of precious lives. It has caused me deep anguish," Prabhu tweeted after the meeting.
Kaifiyat Express derailed in UP after hit by a dumper injuring 70 passengers. On August 20, Utkal Express derailed in UP killing 23 passengers and railways had accepted prima facie negligence by its staff as reason behind derailment.
Two other minor accidents were also reported Wednesday – a train collided with a tractor trolley at an unmanned rail crossing in Villupuram, Tamil Nadu and a narrow gauge train derailed in Gujarat.
When asked about Prabhu’s resignation offer, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said: “Accountability is good system in government. The PM will take a decision on whatever request the rail minister has made."
In the afternoon, Prabhu in a series of tweets said that in less than three years as minister, he has devoted his blood and sweat for the betterment of the Railways.
"Under leadership of PM, I tried to overcome decades of neglect through systemic reforms in all areas leading to unprecedented investment and milestones. New India envisioned by PM deserves a railway which is efficient and modern. I promise that is the path, on which railways is progressing now," he said.
Prabhu had called for a strict action against defaulters and fixing responsibility for Utkal Express derailment. Railway has sent on leave three senior railway officers including Member Engineering A K Mittal, R N Kulshrestha, General Manager Northern Railway and R N Singh, Divisional Railway Manager, Delhi.
Rajiv Bansal, additional secretary and financial advisor in petroleum ministry has been given additional charge of Air India CMD for three months.
A 1980 batch officer of the Indian railway Service of Mechanical Engineers (IRSME), Lohani, 58, is known for turnaround in India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) in previous NDA government and in Madhya Pradesh Tourism Corporation.