Thursday, August 31, 2017

An India Today investigation into the August 19 train wreck has found that it was anything but oversight by railway authorities.

Syed Masroor Hasan| Md Hizbullah | Posted by Sonalee Borgohain
New Delhi, August 30, 2017 |

Operation Killer Express

1 An India Today probe found it was anything but oversight by railway authorities.

2 The probe discovered how recklessness in the railways led to the killer crash.

3 Engineers fastened and unfasten rails during traffic movement, said Khatauli's station master.

When more than 20 lives vanished with a thud at Khatauli in Muzaffarnagar this month, railway authorities downplayed it as a result of possible negligence. An India Today investigation into the August 19 train wreck has found it was anything but oversight.

"The GRP (Government Railway Police) has registered an FIR under 151, 154 and 427, which relates to mischief causing damage or destruction of railway property, causing death by negligence, causing grievous hurt by act endangering lives or personal safety," announced railway-board member Mohd Jamshed, a day after 13 coaches of the Haridwar-bound Kalinga Utkal Express bumped over the tracks.

As is the protocol after every train accident, railway authorities instituted a formal inquiry into the deadly derailment at Khatauli.

But this time, the nation doesn't have to wait for months or years for the government to investigate and make its report public into the Muzaffarnagar accident.

India Today has broken the status quo- it has carried out its own probe into the disaster in less than a fortnight. The findings are stunning.

India Today's undercover team discovered how recklessness and a complete disregard for human safety at every level in the railways led to the killer crash on the evening of August 19.

Sheer luck saved other trains running on the Khatauli route that day as tracks under them were dangerously damaged, India Today's probe found.

The network's undercover reporters investigated officials who presided over the tragedy.

Prakash Singh, Khatauli's station master on duty at the time of the wreck, revealed engineers carried out repairs of the railroad while train traffic ran in full swing in what was a gross violation of basic safety codes.

This, after the railways' central control ignored formal complaints about damaged rail joints, he disclosed.

"Engineers were working since morning (on August 19) without informing anyone," Singh told India Today's journalists. "They made no mention of the repair job while trains kept moving on the tracks. They fastened and unfasten the rails during traffic movement," said the station master.

An entire length of the tracks had been pulled off the surface before the Kalinga Utkal express approached, he revealed.

"You mean the tracks were taken off?" probed the reporter.

"Yes, they (engineers) had taken them off," Singh replied. "They were working without permission. They were asking for the (traffic) block to carry out repairs. The control section refused," Singh insisted.

No one in authority, he explained, took notice of SOSes regarding broken rail joints.

The engineers, recalled Singh, had requested the central control a 20-minute block for suspension of traffic in order for them to replace the damaged parts.

"The control refused," said the station master. "They said trains are already en route, such as Jan Shatabdi, Utkal and others. The control command said it was not possible to issue a block at that time."

As awful as that may sound, engineers had pulled out up to four feet of tracks from the Kalinga Utkal route at Khatauli, disclosed Singh. "The train was bound to derail," he remarked.

Mohan Lal Meena, a junior railway engineer at Khatauli, corroborated the station master's claims.

Meena insisted he had lodged the complaint for track repair in writing, but none heard.

"We had to seek traffic block from the controlling command for repairs. But we didn't get it," he said. "We were refused the permission despite submitting in writing that a glued joint was broken and that it may cause an accident."

"What did they say?" the reporter asked.

"They refused flatly. They said no block can be issued. I told them we won't be responsible if any train comes off the tracks," Meena said.


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