The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Letters to Editor

Powerless argument

Sir — Both the headline and the subtitle of “Parent power” (Sept 17), that comments on the Pratichi Education Report, are screaming. Amartya Sen might be bewildered by parents’ willingness to send their children to school, but for readers of The Telegraph, who sometimes have the pleasure of attending The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence, the news does not come as a surprise. Bijoy Gorai, who singlehandedly raised his infant son in a cart from where he also sells chhola, had the courage to send his son to a school. He received the Abhirup Bhadra Memorial Thank You Baba-Ma award this year. Gorai is not the only one. As Sen found out, there are thousands like him who would do anything to educate their children. There is no disagreement with Sen on that point. But can parents, as the strapline claims, ever find themselves “powered” to change things in the state, or anywhere in India'

Yours faithfully,
J. Acharya, Calcutta

Minister speak

Sir — I am surprised to note that your editorial, “Losing track” (Sept 12), has stated, “The railways minister, Mr Nitish Kumar, has started off by crying sabotage, as is his habit with every major train accident. He did the same when the Shramjeevi Express derailed four months ago, although later inquiry found the cause in human error.”

In fact, I never said at the time of the Shramjeevi Express accident that it was a case of sabotage. In this connection, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that at the time of the Shramjeevi Express accident on May 12, when I visited the site, I had not made any such statement. What I had said at the accident site and in Parliament in a suo motu statement is, “Regarding prima facie cause of the accident, there is a difference of opinion between railway officers and state government officials. While railway officials suspect sabotage as the prima facie cause, the state government officials attribute it to collapse of a bridge.”

I had given both the versions of railway officials and the state police which was to be judged by an independent enquiry to be conducted by the commissioner, railway safety.

Further, the prima facie observation of railway officials as to the cause of the Shramjeevi Express accident had come true in the preliminary report submitted by the commissioner, railway safety on May 24 which states: “Based on the available facts, the Commissioner has come to the tentative conclusion that the accident was caused due to ‘the tampering with track’ by persons unknown.”

The moment I was informed of the accident at Mughalsarai, I immediately left for the accident site and was there at 6.15 am, and I supervised the rescue and relief operations and also carefully inspected the accident site with senior officials. On seeing the tell-tale evidence of fish plates and bolts lying nearby the railway track without any damage and the details given by officials, prima facie it appeared to me as a case of suspected sabotage. I had said that there appears to be suspected case of sabotage and identifying the real cause of the accident is a subject matter of inquiry to be conducted by commissioner, railway safety which is an independent body. I did not say that this is a case of sabotage only, neither did I blame any organization nor anybody for the said action.

As regards your apprehension that the “public paying higher fares than ever before have no idea how the money in the Rs 17,000 crore railway safety fund set up by the prime minister has been used.” In this regard I would like to state that a special railway safety fund of Rs 17,000 crore has been created (Rs 5,000 crore to come from the safety surcharge and and Rs 12,000 crore from the government grant).

This amount will be spent in 6 years including current year on identified projects. Details of the project and the amount required has been placed in Parliament. During the year 2001-2002, a sum of Rs 1,400 crore was provided and the actual amount spent was Rs 1,434 crore. The excess amount spent was provided from the railways’ internal generation. During the current year 2002-2003, a sum of Rs 2,210 crore has been provided. It is not at all possible for anybody to divert the funds from SRSF to any other project or work.

I am not attributing any motive to you but I feel that the editorial comments should be based on factually correct reports.

Yours faithfully,
Nitish Kumar, Union minister for railways, New Delhi

Sir — Which other nation in the world can boast of sending satellites into the space, have one of the highest numbers of technocrats in the world, and yet have a police force which would not hesitate to rob the dead (“Tragedy touts and pilfering police”, Sept 14)' Why are such policemen not shot dead'

Yours faithfully,
Mahesh K. Rathi, Calcutta

Sir — I felt disgusted at the sight of hundreds of people standing and watching the rescue operations. If people cannot lend a hand, they should not be allowed to crowd in such places. Quite obviously, the men had come to look for valuables the dead had left behind.

Yours faithfully,
Pinky Gupta, Calcutta

Sir — I wish the independent inquiry commission investigating into the Rajdhani Express accident thoroughly examines all present and former railway board officers, and ministers and fixes the responsibility on persons, irrespective of their status.

Yours faithfully,
B.S. Ganesh, Bangalore

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