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Fishy twist to fishplate theory

Aurangabad, Sept. 13: Backing up its case with video clips, the Bihar home ministry has sent to Delhi a report on the Rajdhani derailment, punching holes in the railway’s sabotage theory.

Debunking suggestions that fishplates were removed, the report sent to the home ministry said the Dhawa bridge’s wear and tear, aggravated by the railway ministry’s indifference to overhaul, led to the accident.

Railway engineers have corroborated this conclusion, the report said. The report, prepared by senior Aurangabad district officials, contains elaborate data and several video clips.

Sources said the report suggests that the fishplates were removed later as a ploy to establish the theory that the accident had taken place due to satobage.

“The fishplate and the fish board were found on one line as if they were placed in symmetry. The vibrations of the track during the derailment failed to upset this. Even a first look at them shows it was not a natural thing. In normal circumstances, the fishplate and the fishboard would be in an a-symmetrical position”, sources quoted the report as saying.

The report said the distance between the place where the fishplates were found and the track would be two to three centimetres. “How did the fishplates remain in the same position despite the upheaval on the track' Even if it is accepted that the fishplate was tampered with, how is it that the engine which raced past 800 metres from the bridge did not derail'”

The reconstruction of time sequence before the crash has shown that there was barely 17 minutes between the passage of the Rajdhani Express and the Doon Express. “Are 17 minutes enough for anyone to open a rather long fishplate by unscrewing nuts and bolts'” the report asked.

Immediately after the accident, railway minister Nitish Kumar had hinted at the possibility. However, he toned down his posture after deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani contradicted him in public and reined him in private.

The state report refers to the minister’s statement, saying it might prejudice the investigation. “We, on the other hand, have approached the job with an open mind, and a series of questions remain unanswered,” the report said.

The fishplate theory is an unimaginative repeat of the earlier accidents. In 1998, when Danapur Express had derailed on the Bankapur Bridge near Fatuha station on the Patna-Howrah line, the railway engineers had come up with the sabotage theory. The accident, in which 11 people died, was subsequently found to have been caused by the poor maintenance of the bridge.

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