Kanchanjunga Express Train Accident Sparks Outcry and Demands for Railway Minister’s Resignation

Kanchanjunga Express Tragedy in West Bengal Raises Questions on Railway Safety and Government Accountability.

Congress Calls for Railway Minister’s Resignation Amid Rising Train Accidents

In a tragic turn of events, the Kanchanjunga Express accident near Rangapani station in West Bengal has claimed the lives of 10 individuals, including a six-year-old who succumbed to her injuries at North Bengal Medical College on Tuesday. The collision, which occurred just seven kilometers from New Jalpaiguri, caused two rear compartments to derail, leading to significant disruptions in railway services. However, by Tuesday morning, the Avadh Assam Express became the first train to pass the accident site on the downline at 10:42 am, signaling the resumption of railway operations in the area.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 2 lakh from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) for the next of kin of each deceased, while the injured will receive Rs. 50,000. President Droupadi Murmu extended her condolences and prayers to the bereaved families and wished the injured a swift recovery. West Bengal’s Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, also expressed her shock and grief over the incident, emphasizing the need for thorough investigations and improved safety measures.

Kanchanjunga Express Train Accident Sparks Outcry and Demands for Railway Minister's Resignation

Congress Criticism and Demand for Resignation

Following the accident, Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate held a press conference, vehemently criticizing the current government’s handling of railway safety. In her statement, she lamented the decline in public confidence in railway travel, attributing it to the Narendra Modi-led administration’s negligence. Shrinate highlighted the alarming frequency of train accidents, referencing the Balasore tragedy from a year ago, which claimed around 300 lives, and the recent collision in West Bengal.

“In the past, railway ministers like Lal Bahadur Shastri, Nitish Kumar, Madhavrao Scindia, Mamata Banerjee, Madhu Dandavate, and George Fernandes resigned on moral grounds following such accidents,” Shrinate pointed out. She accused the current Railway Minister of prioritizing social media engagements over the safety of the railway network, coining the hashtag #ReelMinister to underscore her point.

Shrinate detailed the underfunding of the National Rail Safety Fund, which received only Rs. 4,225 crores out of the promised Rs. 20,000 crores. She accused the government of misusing funds for non-essential items while neglecting critical safety measures. Additionally, she highlighted the severe staff shortages in Indian Railways, with 312,000 vacant positions, leading to overworked loco pilots and increased risk of human error.

Historical Context of Railway Accidents

The Congress spokesperson also recounted several major train accidents during Modi’s tenure, illustrating the ongoing challenges in railway safety:

  1. Gorakhdham Express Accident (2014): Collision in Uttar Pradesh resulted in 25 deaths and over 50 injuries.
  2. Indore-Patna Express Derailment (2016): Over 150 deaths and more than 150 injuries near Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh.
  3. Utkal Express Derailment (2017): 23 fatalities and nearly 60 injuries in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh.
  4. Kaifiyat Express Derailment (2017): At least 70 injuries near Auraiya, Uttar Pradesh.
  5. Bikaner-Guwahati Express Derailment (2022): 9 deaths and 36 injuries in West Bengal.
  6. Odisha Train Collision (2023): Triple train collision in Balasore led to at least 50 deaths and more than 350 injuries.

These incidents, she argued, underscore the urgent need for systemic reforms and enhanced safety protocols to prevent such tragedies in the future.

Conclusion

The recent Kanchanjunga Express accident has once again brought the spotlight on the critical state of railway safety in India. With political leaders and the public calling for accountability and immediate action, the government faces mounting pressure to address these concerns and restore confidence in the nation’s railway system.

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