New Delhi, July 22: Nitish Kumar today claimed in the Lok Sabha that “the number of train accidents has come down as compared to previous years”.
On any other day, such an assertion by the railway minister would have invited serious trouble, considering there have been more than six accidents in less than two months.
But Nitish managed to put on record a suo motu statement on rail accidents when Manohar Joshi called on him to do so. The Speaker asked him to do so at a time when the House was in turmoil with the Opposition demanding a discussion on the dropping of conspiracy charges against L.K. Advani and seven others in the Babri Masjid demolition case.
Railway accidents are third on the Opposition’s list of priorities at present.
Nitish, who has just returned from a pilgrimage to Amarnath along with four quarrelling Samata Party colleagues, may have earned only a temporary breather from an imminent Opposition onslaught.
It is not just his surprise assertion that accidents have decreased that will come in for scrutiny.
Nitish today cited the findings of preliminary inquiries on all recent major accidents. He attributed last month’s Konkan railway accident to the “failure of right-side slope of cutting, resulting in obstruction of track”. MPs will require some help to understand what this means.
The accident at Warangal earlier this month was due to the train’s failure to stop at the “starter signal”, Nitish said. “Late application of brakes” was the cause of a third mishap. Sabotage caused three derailments in Bihar 10 days ago, the minister said.
Investigations into all these accidents are on and reports awaited, he cautioned. Nitish also said his ministry had held a safety workshop recently.
Some vital decisions based on the workshop deliberations were being taken to make the railway more safe, he told members who could barely hear him in the din over the Advani let-off.