The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Manager follows minister in rail defence

Patna, Sept. 19: Nitish Kumar was first off the block, as pat came his sabotage theory even while passengers of the ill-fated Rajdhani Express were dying in dozens.

Then Bihar boss Laloo Prasad Yadav jumped into the fray with his “expose” on poor maintenance of the Dhawa bridge — the site of the disaster.

Today, Eastern Railway general manager joined the verbal sparring over the tragedy, as he tried to bury criticism with what he called the “factual position of the controversy”.

General manager S.C. Sengupta, who flew down here with at least 12 top officers, told a news conference that recommendations for replacing the bridge’s wooden sleepers was a routine exercise and that the bridge had never been brought under speed restrictions.

Earlier this week, Laloo had released to the media an estimate report on bridge maintenance prepared by the Mughal Sarai division. The report had said the wooden sleepers in Dhawa bridge of Rafiganj, 445, “are badly in need of replacement”.

The document stated that they should be replaced by steel sleepers and also insisted on continuance of the speed limit. The release of the document was meant to reinforce the Bihar government’s view that the accident was caused by poor maintenance of the bridge.

The ruling Rashtriya Janata Dal’s campaign against the railway ministry also got support from an unlikely source. Former railway minister Ram Vilas Paswan said Nitish was using his officers to tell lies on the maintenance of the bridge. “The bridge was poorly maintained and this led to the disaster. The talk of sabotage is hogwash,” he said.

Sengupta tried to deflect the criticism, saying the report was “a planned estimate justifications for replacement of the wooden sleepers”. In what he called the “factual position of the controversy”, he said 12 bridges in the Mughal Sarai division had been brought under the replacement scheme. Of them, speed restrictions on four bridges were imposed. The Dhawa bridge, he said, was inspected on April 6.

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