NEW DELHI: The Congress on Wednesday accused the BJP-led Centre of dereliction of duty of Himalayan proportions in the Balasore train tragedy and said an FIR should be lodged by the CBI against Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for negligence.
At a press conference here, Congress spokesperson Ajoy Kumar alleged that there was a conspiracy on the part of the railway minister that caused the death of 288 people and injuries to more than 1,000 in the crash in Odisha's Balasore, involving three trains.
He also accused the railway minister of doing "theatrics" after the horrific accident and said he should be given an Oscar award for it.
"It was sabotage done by the rail minister as part of a conspiracy with the prime minister for which an FIR should be registered against them," Kumar said.
"The conspiracy that the CBI should investigate is against Ashwini Vaishnaw and his government," he added.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge wrote on Twitter: "The 288 families of the Odisha train tragedy will not get justice by hailing the Railway Minister. Justice will be served only when their accountability and responsibility is fixed."
"The facts show that in the last 9 years, the Modi government has given up on the Ministry of Railways. And now the country is suffering because of it," he added.
Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh shared a news report on Twitter about the New Delhi-Bhubaneswar Rajdhani Express making a miraculous escape from crashing in Jharkhand and asked, "Will the CBI investigate this as well? Or will the Modi government finally accept that something is seriously wrong with safety in Indian Railways."
"Shocking really. But the other central agency has been roped in to divert attention from the report of this central institution," he said in another tweet, referring to a CAG report of March 2021 that claimed that Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK) funds were used in "non-priority" areas.
Kumar accused the government of doing headline management and saving the minister responsible for the train accident. He also alleged that the railways is working on "bhagwan bharose" (at the god's mercy).
The Congress leader alleged that the government weaving conspiracy theories and its decision to refer the rail accident inquiry to the CBI were only to divert public attention as he questioned the logic behind rushing to the conclusion that the accident was caused by sabotage, without examining other aspects.
"It is like starting chemotherapy of a patient who merely complained of cough," he said.
Taking a dig at the railway minister for resorting to "theatrics", Kumar said it should win him an Oscar award. "This is an Oscar-winning performance," he said while showing the video of Vaishnaw getting emotional at the site of the accident.
The Congress leader pointed out that even the CBI FIR did not mention the words "sabotage" and "conspiracy" anywhere, thus making it obvious that the government wanted to divert attention by resorting to conspiracy and sabotage theories.
Taking a swipe at the government, he asked, "From where would the CBI get time since it is already preoccupied with investigating opposition parties and leaders?" Kumar said if anything needs to be investigated by the CBI, it is the 1,129 incidents of derailments in the last four years, the massive reduction in the budget for rail safety and track maintenance, the pending vacancies in the railways and the overburdening of loco-pilots with 12 hours of non-stop duty due to a shortage of staff.
He wondered why a CBI probe has not been announced into the 1,129 derailments.
The Congress leader also asked why an official had given a dissenting note on the preliminary inquiry and alleged that the railway signalling system is faulty.
He said the best agency to probe the accident is the railway safety commissioner and not the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which does not have time for it as it is busy investigating opposition leaders.
"The CBI should investigate why did the Modi government reduce the budget for repairing and laying new tracks from Rs 9,607 crore to Rs 7,400 crore. The CBI should investigate and say when trains derailed around 1,100 times in the last four years, why no CBI investigation was announced. The CBI should investigate and say why the funding of the National Rail Safety Fund has been reduced by almost 80 per cent," Kumar said.
"Why is Ashwini Vaishnaw not named in the CBI FIR?" he asked.
"The CBI should say why more than three lakh posts are vacant in the railways? The CBI should find out why a loco driver is being made to work for more than 12 hours? The CBI should also investigate why Rs 22 crore were spent in the inauguration of Vande Bharat by Modiji? The CBI should explain why only 4 per cent trains have 'Kavach' in nine years," the Congress leader said.
The Indian Railways is in the process of installing "Kavach", an anti-train collision system, across its network.