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Odisha Train Accident Leaves the Nation in Shambles

On June 2, 2023, three trains collided in the Balasore district of Odisha, an eastern Indian state. The 12841 Shalimar – MGR Chennai Central Coromandel Express deviated off the main line and hit with a goods train close to Bahanaga Bazar railway station. Three of the Coromandel Express’ 21 carriages were involved in an accident with the 12864 SMVT Bengaluru-Howrah SF Express on the next track as it approached at speed.

A total of 288 individuals perished in the collision. The Coromandel Express's first three cars, or so-called general category coaches, had most of the dead passengers. Due to its open expanses and proximity to the crash scene, a nearby high school was chosen as the resting place for the bodies of the slain passengers. It was challenging to identify the bodies due to the burns and injuries. Only passengers with reserved seats had names on the train service.

Investigations revealed that the Coromandel Express was initially given the go-ahead to continue on the main line while traveling at a speed of 128 km/h (80 mph) on a southern line in the direction of Chennai. But later, for unexplained reasons, the main line's signal was turned off, and the track was changed to a loop line next to the main bar. In the meantime, the Coromandel Express was being passed by the Bengaluru-Howrah Express, which was traveling in the opposite direction on the northbound line at a speed of 126 km/h (78 mph) in the direction of Howrah. The Bengaluru-Howrah Express had passed the other train at the time of the collision, but only its rear end had received the impact. Three coaches from the Coromandel Express struck the last two coaches of the Bengaluru-Howrah Express. As a result, the five coaches suffered the most casualties.

The disaster was caused by a "change in electronic interlocking," or an error in electronic signals, according to Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw's statement. Jaya Varma, a member of the Railway Board, stated that although the electronic interlocking system is "fail-safe" in 99.9% of instances, this exceptional failure may have been brought on by a wire cut during construction or some other short circuit.

Vaishnaw claimed that the railway board had recommended a CBI investigation, which is an unusual course of action. The Minister for Railways stated that the Commission for Railway Safety "has looked into the matter." An ex-board member and longtime railway employee questioned the government's assertion that it had found the offender before determining the accident's cause, which is still unknown. They added that CRS employees are more knowledgeable about the railroads than CBI staff. He said that the CBI inquiry would simply identify the perpetrators. However,r the CRS investigation will also unearth systemic failings, offering a review of current safety safeguards and techniques in which the Railways can improve.

In the aftermath, the railways have declared that they would compensate the families of the deceased with Rs. 10 lakhs, the heavily injured with Rs. 2 lakhs, and those with slight injuries with Rs. 50,000. The PMNRF will also provide ex gratia compensation to the families of the deceased in the amount of Rs. 2 lahks and to the injured in the amount of Rs. 50,000.

The Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, expressed his sadness at the occurrence and sent his condolences to the bereaved families. Amit Shah, the Union home minister, called the incident "profoundly distressing." Naveen Patnaik, the Chief Minister of Odisha, and Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, both voiced their worry about the catastrophe. Leaders from India's neighbors and other nations sent their sympathies for the deaths and offered their support to India.

Both the chief ministers of Odisha and Tamil Nadu proclaimed a day of mourning, with the latter also announcing a payment of Rs. 5 lakhs to the families.

The resignation of Railway Minister Vaishnav was demanded by several opposition groups, including the Indian National Congress, Trinamool Congress, Communist Party of India (Marxist), and Communist Party of India.

The All-India Congress Committee's president, Mallikarjun Kharge, cited a letter from February in which he questioned the Ministry of Railways about their failure to heed a critical warning. The former railway minister criticized the administration for failing to put the anti-train collision system in place. Both Prime Minister Modi and Railway Minister Vaishnaw, according to him, appeared hesitant to accept the existence of issues.

As of Friday, July 7, 2023, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), India's leading investigating agency, made substantial headway in the case of the Odisha railway catastrophes, which claimed the lives of 293 individuals and injured over 1,000 others. Arun Kumar Mohanta, a senior section engineer, Mohammad Amir Khan, a section engineer, and Pappu Kumar, a technician, were arrested by the CBI as suspects in the accidents.

According to sources, there is proof that these railway officials were fully aware that their conduct might result in such a tragic accident. As a result, they were arrested under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code. They have been explicitly charged under section 304, which deals with the punishment for a culpable homicide that does not amount to murder, and 201, which deals with causing the removal of evidence of an offense or supplying false information to shield an offender.

As time passes, more information regarding the occurrence becomes available to the public. As a result, it won't be long before justice is served to everybody. Nonetheless, many individuals have asked the government to take the necessary steps to avoid situations like train collisions in the future.


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