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Mishap alert, decade ago

- Police officer wrote to Railway Board about nexus in 2003

Patna, June 30: The last week’s Rajdhani Express derailment could have been averted had the Railway Board paid heed to a letter of a senior IPS officer in 2003.

Amitabh Kumar Das, who was superintendent of police (rail) in Patna then, had come to know about the use of sub-standard quality of material in laying the railway tracks in Bihar and adjoining Uttar Pradesh.

Das, known as a no-nonsense officer in the police circles, had written to the board and the deputy inspector-general (rail), Bihar, on April 12, 2003, about the growing influence of underworld dons on the railway projects in the two neighbouring states.

On Monday, Das said: “I am ready to depose before the commission of inquiry set up by the railways to ascertain the cause of derailment of 12 bogies of the Dibrugarh Rajdhani Express last Wednesday, if required.” He added that he still stood by his report submitted to the senior railway officials in 2003. “My report was based on concrete information. I had hinted at the political-criminal nexus responsible for causing immense financial loss to the railways and posing threat to the lives of innocent railway passengers,” he said.

Das, in his letter, a copy of which is with The Telegraph, had revealed that a meeting of the underworld dons was held to demarcate the areas of their operation. To drive home his point, Das had pointed out that the supporters of don-turned-politician Surajbhan Singh had bagged the contract for laying of the tracks between Parsa and Taregana stations under Danapur division for Rs 32 crore. Similarly, the meeting had decided that the contracts on Patna-Mughalsarai section would be “managed” by another don-turned politician Sunil Pandey (now a JDU MLA from Tarari) and Dhanbad division by Babli Singh of Pandav group, respectively. Earlier, violent clashes had taken place between the warring groups over the award of railway contracts in which several people were killed.

Das, now posted as SP in the state human rights commission, had given details of the incidents in Patna and Nalanda districts between 2001 and 2002.

He had also mentioned about a letter written to his office by the then safety commissioner of Danapur railway division on December 7, 2001, in which the latter had apprehended violence in wake of the contract awarded to the supporters of Surajbhan Singh (former Lok Janshakti Party MP from Balia in Begusarai).

Das had requisitioned for additional two companies of the Bihar Military Police to tackle these railway mafia. The supporters of two rival groups of the railway mafia had indulged in daylight firing at the railway’s Mahendru Ghat office on January 26, 2003.

A senior railway official posted at Hajipur zonal office said: “Had the board taken note of the SP’s letter, such accidents would not have taken place. It’s ironical that the railway officials do not pay heed to the warnings of the SPs and other senior police officers.”