kottayam l monday l june 05, 2023 l `9.00 l PAGES 12 l city EDITION U.S. Secretary of Defence LloYd Austin begins two-day India visit The US is keen to bolster defence ties with India, especially in the area of technology transfer for the co-development of military hardware Procurement of armed drones on agenda Laying the groundwork for modi’s trip On Monday, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Austin will discuss a proposal by US defence maker General Electric to share technology for co-development of fighter jet engines as well as India’s plan to buy 30 MQ-9B armed drones from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc for $3 bn. China’s aggressive behaviour along the LAC and the Indo-Pacific is also likely to figure in the talks ■ Austin’s visit comes two weeks ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to Washington during which the two sides are expected to unveil initiatives to expand the India-US global strategic partnership ■ India has been looking at the manufacturing of jet engines in the country under the framework of technology transfer to power its fighter aircraft June 2016 when U.S. designated India a ‘Major Defence Partner’ paving way for tech transfer CHENNAI ■ MADURAI ■ VIJAYAWADA ■ BENGALURU ■ KOCHI ■ HYDERABAD ■ VISAKHAPATNAM ■ COIMBATORE ■ KOZHIKODE ■ THIRUVANANTHAPURAM ■ BELAGAVI ■ BHUBANESWAR ■ SHIVAMOgGA ■ MANGALURU ■ TIRUPATI ■ TIRUCHY ■ TIRUNELVELI ■ SAMBALPUR ■ HUBBALLI ■ DHARMAPURI ■ KOTTAYAM ■ KANNUR ■ VILLUPURAM ■ KOLLAM ■ TADEPALLIGUDEM ■ NAGAPATTINAM ■ THRISSUR ■ KALABURAGI Human error or sabotage? rly seeks cbi probe Officials say two persons responsible for the crash identified; mainline junction had developed snag and was recently repaired B i jo y Keta n P r a d h a n & Hem a n t Kum a r Rout Mainline tracks repaired, says RailwaY minister @ Bhubaneswar / Bahanaga IN a curious turn of events, the Indian Railway Board on Sunday evening recommended the Centre to hand over the Bahanaga Bazar train accident case to CBI for investigation. The announcement came from Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, who earlier in the day had said the root cause of the accident and the people responsible for it had been identified. “It happened due to a change made in the electronic interlocking and point machine,” he told reporters at the accident site in the morning. However, in a hurriedly convened media conference at Rail Sadan, headquarters of the East Coast Railway in Bhubaneswar, after visiting survivors undergoing treatment at SCB Medical College and Hospital, Cuttack, Vaishnaw said the case needed further investigation. “Keeping in view the situation in which the accident took place and all the administrative information that has been received so far, this case is being considered for further investigation. Recommendation is being made by the Railway Board to hand the matter over to the CBI,” Vaishnaw said. The request for CBI probe has seemingly brought the sabotage angle into picture. A senior Railway official said prima facie the accident appears to be an act of sabotage, which is now seen as a criminal act. The CBI will be the competent agency to investigate the criminal aspect of the case. Earlier in the day, Odishia Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which officially was stated to be on the treatment of Two days after one of India’s worst train accidents at Bahanaga Bazar in Odisha’s Balasore district, two railway tracks have been made fit to carry trains after bulldozers and cranes removed capsized coaches on the main trunk line connecting eastern and southern India. The govt on Sunday said both the Up and Down railway tracks at Balasore accident site have been repaired. Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw tweeted that track linking Up-line has been restored and overhead electification work has also started. Restoration of train tracks in progress at the accident site in Balasore on Sunday | DEBADATTA MALLICK injured passengers. The chief minister assured the prime minister that all possible steps are being taken to provide best of treatment to them. According to some railway officials, human error is the reason behind the crash. “We have identified it and found the involvement of two persons,” a senior official told this paper on condition of anonymity . The Bahanaga Bazar station, where the derailment occurred, has two mainline tracks. Up and Down lines for trains to pass through and two loop lines used for temporary halt to allow smooth movement of trains on the main lines. After a goods train was allowed to stay on the Up loop line, the signal was given for Coromandel Express on the Up mainline. Usually after , a train is allowed into loop by switching on the panel, it moves a piece of track from mainline to loop line. Once the train is in, the switch is moved back in the route relay panel to ensure that the moved piece of track is returned to its original position. But here, the track piece did not return from the loop line to the mainline and the point was towards the loop line. Though the issue reflected on the panel at the station, the station manager present at that time somehow missed it. By the time he saw the panel, there was nothing abnormal and he gave the signal. As the piece of track, according to sources, had not returned to its original position, Coromandel Express dashed into the stationary iron ore-laden freight train at a speed of 130 kmph. Had the station manager noticed the red light and taken measures, this crash could have been avoided, said the senior official. Besides, the official Bhubaneswar: The Odisha government on Sunday revised the train accident’s toll to 275 from 288, and put the number of injuries at 1,175. Chief secretary P K Jena told mediapersons that this is because some bodies were counted twice — at the accident spot and then again at the hospital. After detailed verification and submission of the report by the district collector, the final toll in the tragedy has been put at 275, he clarified. Jena said 88 bodies have been identified so far and 78 handed over to their families Hem a n t Kum a r Rout @ Bahanaga Phulamani Hembrum was cooking in her courtyard when she heard a big bang on Friday evening. She stepped out to find a cloud of smoke engulfing the railway tracks, about 200 metres from her house. And then the area plunged into darkness. Before she could realise what happened, she heard screams. Phulamani and her husband Raghu ran towards the site and what they saw left them numbed. “For the first time in my life, I saw so many dead people. The bodies were soaked in blood. There were dismembered body parts strewn across. I gathered courage and ran towards a derailed coach where a little girl was hanging from the window. She had injuries all over her body. Her mother managed to get out. I took them to my house, gave them water,” said the 30-year-old tribal woman who rescued six children. The Hembrum couple did not E x p r e s s Ne w s Se r v i c e @T’Puram U n n i k r i s h n a n S @ T’Puram polite politics Union Home Minister Amit Shah greets Health Minister Veena George during the silver jubilee celebrations of Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences in Kochi on Sunday | A Sanesh | P4 3-member inquiry panel to probe Manipur violence A M I T M U KH E R J E E @ New Delhi The Centre has set up a threemember Commission of Inquiry under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952, to conduct a probe into the incidents of violence in Manipur since the first week of May, which has killed at least 100 people and left thousands homeless. The panel, chaired by Justice Ajai Lamba, former Chief Jus- tice of Gauhati High Court, will examine the triggers of the May 3 violence that sparked the ethnic conflict still raging in the state. It will try to determine if there were any lapses or dereliction of duty on the part of authorities. Other members of the commission are retired IAS officer Himanshu Shekhar Das and retired IPS of ficer Aloka Prabhakar. Bikers and drivers beware! The Motor Vehicle Department will start issuing challans for traffic offences detected by AI cameras from 8am on Monday . The cameras will primarily be used for detecting offences such as bikers not using helmets and overloading, car passengers not wearing seat belts, drivers using mobile phones, jumping red signals, overspeeding, and dangerous and illegal parking, Transport Minister Antony Raju said on Sunday . However, there will not be any penalty if the third passenger on the bike is a child under 12, the minister said. The state has written to the Union government demanding amendment of the Motor Vehicle Act to allow children to travel as third passenger, due to public demand. “There has been no response from the Centre. The state will take a final decision stop there. They went on to rescue another 30 passengers and even arranged transport for hospitals. Before rescue teams could arrive, around 58 tribals of two hamlets — Krushnapur and Kamaripur — were among the first responders who utilised their resources to save the lives of passengers of the illfated Coromandel Express that was involved in one of the country’s deadliest rail disasters at Bahanaga Bazar Station. They rescued 200 passengers and retrieved dead bodies from damaged coaches. Soon teams of the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force, fire services and National Disaster Response Force arrived at the site. Maheswar Kisku, another tribal, recalls removing mutilated bodies. “I climbed on the overturned coaches and pulled out dead bodies which were missing hands and legs. The scene was so horrific, it replays in front of my eyes even after two days of the incident,” he said. People in search of their missing relatives check photos of victims displayed at the makeshift morgue at NOCCI Business Park in Balasore on Sunday | DEBADATTA MALLICK Road traffic offenders beware! AI cameras to get cracking from today SW monsoon winds fail to touch Kerala The southwest monsoon’s landfall over the Indian mainland has been delayed further, signalling a weak start to the rainy season. From its earlier forecast of June 4, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) now anticipates a delay of three to four days. Despite bringing rain to the Arabian Sea, the monsoon winds have failed to touch Kerala, leaving weather experts concerned about a delayed onset. Satellite images have revealed the presence of rain clouds over the Arabian Sea, but their impact on the mainland has been minimal thus far. After sweeping through Lakshadweep, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka, the development of a cyclonic system in the Arabian Sea has impeded the progress of the westerly winds, which are crucial to the onset of the monsoon in Kerala. “Conditions (are) becoming favourable with the increase in westerly winds over the south Arabian Sea. Also, the depth of westerly winds is gradually increasing and today (June 4), the depth of westerlies has reached up to 2.1km above the mean sea level,” the IMD said. “The cloud mass over the southeast Arabian Sea is also increasing. We expect that these favourable conditions for monsoon onset over Kerala will further improve during the next three● More on P4 four days.” said, it has come to light that the mainline and loop line junction had developed some snags and were recently repaired by a signal maintainer. “Possibly, this technician, who repaired the circuit made a direct connection with the signal bypassing the procedures. The assistant station manager, thus, could give the signal without knowing the track position. He adopted a shortcut method to repair the fault,” the official added. The electronic signalling system is error-proof and fail-safe, which means when it fails, all signals will turn red and all train operations will stop. Station manager cannot give the signal if there is any fault in the lines. “This is perhaps for the first time in railways history, it happened due to shortcut method adopted to repair the fault,” sources said. P7 Toll revised down to 275; 88 bodies identified Tribals turned first responders, saved 200 Under watch No fine on 2-wheelers carrying kids as third passenger Offence Penalties Riding without wearing helmets K500 Triple riding (overloading) K2,000 Driving without fastening seat belts K500 Use of mobile phone while driving K2,000 Speeding K1,500 Parking violation K250 Court to decide Red light jumping on penalty based on the Centre’s response. Till then there shall be no penalty for overloading if the third passenger is a child of less than 12 years,” said Raju. As per the rule, only two persons are allowed to travel in a bike. Minister for Road, Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari, in a response to Elamaram Karim MP, said allowing children as third passenger is not permitted due to safety concerns. The public can appeal against the penalty to the RTO concerned. “The complainants have to approach the RTO directly We will introduce an on. line appeal facility in two months,” said Raju. He said the state was the first in the country to implement AIbased traffic enforcement using automatic number plate recognition cameras. The department was only trying to enforce the existing rules and no new rules had been added on its own. Exemption will be given to emergency vehicles as per the criteria fixed by the central ● More on P4 law, he added. E X PRE S S RE A D Schools to be declared ‘litter-free’ T’Puram: School campuses in the state will be declared ‘litter-free’ on the occasion of World Environment Day, on Monday. General Education Minister V Sivankutty will make the formal declaration at Cotton Hill Government Higher Secondary School in Thiruvananthapuram at 9.30am on Monday. The minister urged all schools in the state to implement various programmes to realise the objective. P4 ‘Sandeep not under influence of drugs’ Kollam: Sandeep S, the accused in the murder of Dr Vandana Das, was found not to be under the influence of drugs at the time of the incident, according to the forensics report submitted to the Kottarakkara first-class magistrate court. Initially, there were suspicions that the accused may have been intoxicated, potentially triggering the attack. P5 life of the protest Termed ‘dead’ by vicar, laity plays the part G O PIKA VARRI E R @ Thrissur This was neither a zombie insurrection nor a shaman ritual. But, when the ‘dead’ of the Little Flower Church in Poomala, Thrissur, decided to pray for their own souls, they looked decidedly alive! Their “demise” was the price parishioners paid for questioning the financial transactions of church authorities. On Sun- day a group of believers, under , the Poomala Cherupushpam Devalaya samrakshana samithi (protection committee), decided to play the part and pray for their own peace — by observing the seventh-day prayer for the departed. The protesters sought the transfer of the vicar who had termed them “as good as dead” and conducted prayers for them on Pentecost Day — which is commemorated on the 50th day after Easter. Fr Joyson Koroth had assumed charge of the church around seven years back. His predecessor, with the support of the faithful, had initiated steps to demolish the old church and construct a new one in its place. Upon his arrival, Fr Joyson actively over- saw the work. But, after it took six years for the project to be realised, parishioners started questioning the delay . “The church work could have been completed in three years’ time. Parishioners donated wood, including teak, and even sold their gold to raise money. Despite having sufficient funds, the work was delayed,” said Prakash John, of ● More on P4 the samithi.
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