A wave of shock hit the country as 14 of the 23 coaches of the Kalinga Utkal Express from Puri to Hardiwar derailed in Khatauli near Muzaffarnagar on Saturday. According to media reports, 32 people have died and 200 were injured, whereas, the railway department has confirmed the number of dead as 23 and injured as 156.
The rescue operations began and helpline numbers were announced for those seeking information on the accident. Soon, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh announced a compensation of 2 lakh for the family members of the deceased and 50,000 for the injured. The Railway Minister announced an ex-Gratia of 3.5 lakh for the kin of deceased, 50,000 for seriously injured and 25,000 for those with minor injuries. Odisha chief minister announced a compensation of 5 lakh for the family of the deceased and 50,000 for the injured passengers.
An Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) team of Uttar Pradesh left for the site of the derailment in Khatauli for investigation. An inquiry into the accident was ordered by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu who had also announced that there will be strict action against lapses. Meanwhile, it was being speculated that the train crash took place because of human negligence.
In their action against its employees, the railway department has suspended 4 officials that include a Senior Divisional Engineer, Assistant Engineer, Senior Section Engineer and a Junior Engineer. Three officials, Member (Engineering) in the Railway Board, Northern Railway General Manager and Divisional Regional Manager (Delhi), have been sent on leave and the Chief Track Engineer of the Northern Railway has been transferred. It is believed that a board member of the railway has faced an action like this for such an accident for the first time. Apart from senior officials, all the field workers responsible for the lapse in maintenance work have been suspended.
According to the preliminary report of the inquiry into the accident, it has turned out that the railway track was being repaired unofficially without putting any restrictions on the speed through a red flag or signal warning on the route. A glued joint in the rail that holds a signal separation mechanism was being repaired without blocking the railway traffic. The information regarding repair work must be given to the driver of the train in advance so that he can slow the train down or stop well before time. Some maintenance tools were also found near the spot of the derailment.
Another major development in connection with the alleged carelessness by the railway employees has come up as an audio recording which is believed to be a telephonic conversation between a railway employee and his friend. One of the people, who is believed to be a railway employee, can be heard saying that the train driver was not informed about the repair work and the work had been left incomplete due to which the train got derailed. However, the identity of the people in the conversation is still unknown. The men in dialogue are talking about how the neglect was carried out by the railway employees and resulted in the train crash.
Click here to listen to the audio clip of the conversation that is going viral.