Mamata, visibly agitated, claimed that three coaches of the damaged train had yet to be examined and that injured and deceased bodies still needed to be recovered.
NEW DELHI: Amidst the tragedy of a train accident, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee found themselves engaged in a contentious dispute over the reported number of casualties. Mamata, visibly agitated, claimed that three coaches of the damaged train had yet to be examined and that injured and deceased bodies still needed to be recovered. In response, Vaishnaw, amidst a media frenzy, attempted to counter her statement by suggesting, “There could be 500 deaths. However, the body count for the three coaches is still pending.”
Vaishnaw quickly added, “Didi, all the coaches have been thoroughly inspected, and the bodies have been recovered. The state government has confirmed a final death toll of 238.” Despite his response, Mamata remained unconvinced and continued to assert that three coaches remained unaccounted for. She also emphasized that the tragic event could have been avoided if the government’s highly publicized anti-collision device, Kavach, had been installed on the train.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee visited the accident site in Balasore, Odisha, on Saturday to assess the situation after a collision involving three trains resulted in the loss of 280 lives. During her visit, she announced compensation of Rs 5 lakh and expressed her willingness to cooperate with the Railways and the Odisha Government until the work is completed. Mamata Banerjee stated, “The Railway provides Rs 10 lakhs as compensation. We will provide Rs 5 lakhs each to the people of our state and work together with the Railways and the Odisha Government.”
In response to the horrific triple train crash, the ruling Trinamool Congress in West Bengal demanded the resignation of Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw. TMC’s national general secretary, Abhishek Banerjee, accused the Centre of allocating significant funds to spy on opposition leaders through software while neglecting the installation of anti-collision devices in trains to prevent such accidents.
Mamata Banerjee, a former Railway Minister in the BJP-led NDA government in 1999, expressed her deep connection with the railway system, stating, “Railways is like my baby. I consider myself a member of the railway family and I am always ready to contribute my suggestions.”
During her tenure in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Cabinet in 1999, Banerjee joined the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government and was entrusted with the responsibility of the Railway Ministry. In her inaugural railway budget in 2000, she introduced a multitude of new express trains in West Bengal.
Later, Banerjee assumed the role of Railway Minister in the UPA-II government in May 2009. However, she resigned from the position in 2013 when she was on the brink of becoming the Chief Minister of West Bengal.
The accident, which occurred due to a derailment, involved two passenger trains, the Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express and the Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express, in addition to a goods train. The incident happened on Friday night at Bahanaga station in Balasore district of Odisha.