The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Train of accidents haunts Nitish

New Delhi, July 3: Railway minister Nitish Kumar came under fire today from members of the parliamentary standing committee on railways for his accident record, one of the worst in recent history.

Basudeb Acharya, MP from Bengal, led the attack against Nitish Kumar a day after yet another train mishap in Secunderabad, where the Golconda Express jumped tracks and plunged off a bridge killing 21 people.

The MPs, who criticised the functioning of the existing team of railway officials and upbraided Nitish Kumar for his lackadaisical efforts, demanded a white paper detailing comprehensive measures to improve safety.

“The members were very appreciative of the efforts but seemed to be upset with the spate of accidents that have occurred in the last couple of months. It was unfortunate that the members felt that the existing team was not functioning on safety issues. They were critical of each individual in the railway ministry, including the minister,” said a senior Railway Board member.

“The MPs demanded that the white paper explain all aspects relating to railway safety and the efforts that have been made till date. The minister will take a final decision on this demand. We would be glad to inform the members and the country about the efforts being taken to maintain railway safety,” said a source in the Railway Board.

Responding to the demands by the members, Nitish Kumar said the three major components of the railways — engineering, mechanical and electrical departments — would be made liable for accidents in their areas, besides frontline staff for human asset failure.

The minister assured members that he was concerned over the various accidents in the last few days and there would be no let-up in railway safety standards.

The parliamentary committee, which was meeting to discuss claims of accident victims, took more than two hours to vent their anger on the railways’ poor safety record. Later the members discussed all aspects of claims, like procedural wrangle and delays in disbursal of compensation, and the loss of luggage parcels and other consignments.

The members wanted the railway ministry to simplify procedures for expeditious payment of claims. Nitish Kumar assured that their concerns would be discussed with the railways claims tribunal.

The MPs also discussed measures to improve rail services, including punctuality, safety, introduction of new trains, halts and expeditious completion of various projects.

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