Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Monday slammed the Centre over the Balasore train disaster and pointed out the flaws he has noticed, including doing away with a separate railway budget under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s regime.
He also talked about his own resignation from the post of the railway minister in the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s cabinet in the aftermath of a train mishap in Bengal in 1999, thereby insinuating that the present railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw should have resigned in the light of the worst train mishap of this century.
“I resigned despite the then Prime Minister Vajpayee trying to stop me. However, I shall not say whether he (Vaishnaw) should resign or not. They (the BJP government at the Centre) have done away with the provision of a separate railway budget, else people would have got information about everything. Do they (the government) have any sense? The Parliament used to function through the night on the day of the rail budget, which used to be a centre of attraction for everybody,” Nitish said.
“The railway is among the oldest government institutions in the country. It is a necessity. The facility given to the public is the most important thing. But the people at the helm have abandoned these and are indulging in their own publicity and are working as they fancy. Be sure about this, they will destroy everything,” Nitish added.
The Bihar chief minister was talking to media persons on the sidelines of a function to commemorate the Sampoorna Kranti Diwas or the anniversary of the call for "total revolution" given by stalwart leader Jayaprakash Narayan on June 5, 1974. It sparked off widespread public agitations in the country and led to the clamping of the Emergency in 1975.
Speaking further on the occasion, Nitish pointed out that he had tendered his resignation to Vajpayee after being pained at the loss of a large number of lives in the train mishap at Gaisal in Bengal on August 2, 1999. Around 290 people were killed and over 300 were injured in it.
Vajpayee did not accept his resignation but relented when he again tendered it. This made Nitish the second railway minister after Lal Bahadur Shastri (1956) to resign in the aftermath of a train accident. Suresh Prabhu resigned as a railway minister after two back-to-back accidents in 2016.
"After Vajpayee rejected my resignation, I met him and submitted my resignation again. I requested him to accept it because I did not feel good about the mishap and told him that I would feel bad about canvassing in the coming Lok Sabha elections. He relented and accepted it,” Nitish said.
“Vajpayee made me the railway minister again after around one-and-a-half years. I then decided on the projects that should be undertaken for the improvement of the railways. They were accepted and went on to improve the condition of the railways. The government that succeeded us carried on with the work,” Nitish added.
The Bihar disaster management department (DMD) informed that 13 people from the state have died in the Odisha train disaster and 53 have been left injured. They are undergoing medical treatment in different hospitals in Odisha. Around 46 passengers hailing from Bihar are missing.
The Bihar government has sent a four-member team to Balasore in Odisha to coordinate with the local administration to ensure all facilities for the injured and gather information about those who have been killed, or are missing.