madurai l MONday l June 05, 2023 l `9.00 l PAGES 12 l late 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 j o y K e ta n P r a d h a n & Hemant Kumar Rout @ 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 Main line tracks repaired 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 government 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 electrification work has also started. “Track linking of Up-line has been done at 16.45 hours. Overhead electrification work started,” Vaishnaw tweeted on Sunday Restoration of train tracks in progress at the accident site in Balasore on Sunday | DEBADATTA MALLICK 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 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. “It was entirely a human error. 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 and a red light flashed for a few seconds, 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 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 the , shortcut method adopted to repair the fault,” sources said. Meanwhile, three separate teams of forensic experts from Kolkata, Hyderabad and New Delhi visited the station and collected forensic evidence. They also interacted with rail officials and station staff. P7 Tribals turned first responders, saved 200 H e m a n t K u m a r R o u t @ 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-yearold tribal woman who rescued six children. The Hembrum couple did not 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 over 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. The tribal families were lucky the derailed coaches did not hit their houses which are barely 200 metres from the site. “Anything was possible but we were lucky,” said his wife Manjulata. All 127 TN passengers safe, AC preference a factor B AN B U S ELVAN @Chennai ALL 127 passengers identified as hailing from Tamil Nadu, who were affected by Friday’s three-train pile-up, are safe and accounted for TN sports minister, Udhayanidhi Stalin, said in Chennai on Sunday on returning from his visit to Odisha. Udhayanidhi, transport minister SS Sivasankar and three IAS officers had visited the state to help coordinate rescue efforts. The news sparked the question on how TN passengers escaped largely unharmed from one of the worst train accidents in the country’s history . Of the 787 passengers who boarded the Coromandel Express for Chennai (from Shali- Health workers checking an injured survivor of the Coromandel Express accident on her arrival in Chennai on Sunday | P ravikumar mar (525), Kharagpur (199), and Balasore (63) stations), the state government identified 127 as TN residents based on their names and residential address- es. All of them are safe and only one is being treated at the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital after arriving in the city on Sunday morning. A key factor behind their escape, industry sources suggested, is the preference of TN passengers for travelling in air-conditioned coaches. The AC coaches sustained less damage compared to the sleeper and general class coaches of the train during the accident. “Over the past 18 months, ticket demand on the HowrahChennai route has increased significantly, leading to an influx of unreserved passengers in reserved sleeper coaches. As a result, many tend to choose AC coaches, which may have contributed to their higher survival rate,” said K Baskar, former member of the Divisional Railway Users’ Consultative Committee, Chennai. P2 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 Toll revised down to 275; 88 bodies identified 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 Centre sets up 3-member inquiry Baby, 4 family members killed in Kanchi car crash panel to probe Manipur violence G a u t h a m S e lv a r a j a n @ Chennai AMIT MU K HERJEE @ 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 Justice of Gauhati High Court, will specifically examine the triggers of the May 3 violence that sparked the ethnic conflict still raging in the state. The commission will try to determine if there were any lapses or dereliction of duty on the part of authorities and if the measures taken to prevent the outbreak of violence were sufficient. Other members of the Imphal-headquartered commission are retired IAS officer Secuirty personnel during an area domination operation in Manipur | PTI Himanshu Shekhar Das and retired IPS of ficer Aloka Prabhakar. The commission must submit its report to the Centre as soon as possible, and no later than six months from the date of its first sitting. If it deems fit, it can make interim reports to the Centre before the said date. Meanwhile, violence continued in the state with suspected Kuki militants torching nearly 100 abandoned houses, including that of a Congress MLA, in the wee hours of Sunday . The state has been witnessing sporadic violence ever since ethnic violence first broke out after a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ was organised in the hill districts on May 3 to protest the Meitei community’s demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status. Union Home Minister Amit Shah visited the state between May 29 and June 1, during which he held talks with representatives of all segments of the Manipur society Shah said . peace and prosperity of Manipur are the Centre’s top priority and had instructed officials to strictly deal with any activities that disturb peace. A trip to take a newborn home turned tragic on Saturday night when five members of the family, including the three-monthold boy, died after the car in which they were travelling rammed into a parked lorry near Chitherimedu at Kancheepuram. The family was retur ning to Tiruvannamalai from Retteri after the birth of the infant. While 38year-old Ramajayam, who was driving the car, survived and is undergoing treatment, his wife, three children and cousin died in the accident. Baluchetty Chatram police identified the deceased as Ratna (32), her children, Rajalakshmi (5), Tejashree (3), the threemonth-old who had not yet been named and Ramajayam’s cousin Rajesh (39). The police said Ramajayam lived with his family at Chengam in Tiruvannamalai district. Ratna had gone to her parent’s house at Retteri to have the baby On Fri. day, Ramajayam and Rajesh went to Retteri to bring her and the children home. On Saturday night, they left for Chengam. As the car neared Chitherimedu along the Chennai-Bengaluru Highway around 10.15 pm, Ramajayam allegedly lost control and rammed a lorry parked by the roadside. The impact of the collision killed Ratna, Rajesh and the children on the spot while Ram- ajayam sustained serious injuries. Baluchetty Chatram police rescued Ramajayam, who was taken to Kancheepuram Government Hospital for treatment. The remains of the deceased were sent for postmortem at the same hospital. “Inquiry is on to ascertain how the car lost control. We are checking if the tyre burst causing Ramajayam to lose control,” a police officer said. The lorry driver has not been traced yet. Police have registered a case and are investigating. express read Cong looks to export K’taka model to other states Bengaluru: Following a massive Congress victory in Karnataka Assembly polls, the party is now trying to replicate its ‘Karnataka model’ in the upcoming Assembly polls in Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. The key strategist, Sunil Kanugolu, who has been appointed Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s chief political adviser, is travelling to poll-bound states to lay the groundwork for Congress’ win. After studying the ground situation in these states, he is expected to chalk out a strategy and present it before the Congress high command as soon as party leader Rahul Gandhi returns from the United States, sources said Birla walks out of Mali community event in Raj Jaipur: Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla on Sunday abruptly left a Mali community ‘maha panchayat’ without addressing the gathering after a large number of participants disrupted a speech by BJP leader and Uttar Pradesh Deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya by raising slogans in favour of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. The ‘maha panchayat’ was held in the state capital to demand 12% reservation in jobs and higher education as well as increased political representation in the state and at the Centre. Gehlot is a member of the community. The ‘maha panchayat’ comes as other communities like Jats and Rajputs have already held similar gatherings in the election-bound state | P8
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