BHUBANESWAR 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 ‘Change in e-interlocking system caused crash’ Officials say two persons responsible for the crash identified; mainline junction which had developed a snag was ‘repaired’ B i j o y K etan P r adhan & H emant K uma r R o ut @ 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 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, Odisha 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 CM briefs PM, announces `5L ex gratia for victims from Odisha E x p r e s s N e w s Se r v i c e @ Bhubaneswar Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Sunday briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the latest situation of the train mishap at Bahanaga Bazar, particularly on treatment of the accident victims. The chief minister also announced ex gratia of `5 lakh for the kin of the deceased and `1 lakh for the seriously injured. The assistance will be given from Chief Minister’s Relief Fund (CMRF) and will be applicable to the victims from the state only . The chief minister assured the prime minister that all possible steps are being taken to save the lives of the injured admitted in different hospitals of the state. The doctors and medical students are doing their best to save lives. Doctors, students and common people are coming forward to donate blood for the injured persons, he said. Stating that the Odisha government fol- lows a policy which underlines ‘every life is precious’, the chief minister said that the state government is leaving no stone unturned to save lives. The state government officials are relentlessly working for the rescue operation, shifting injured to hospitals and making arrangements for their treatment. Giving details about the latest situation, the chief minister said that as many as 1,175 injured passengers have been admitted in different hospitals, out of which 793 have been discharged. Most of the injured patients are in stable condition. As many as 382 passengers are now undergoing treatment in various government and private hospitals, the CM informed. The prime minister thanked the chief minister and Odisha gover nment for the prompt and efficient action during the crisis. The Centre is ready to provide any kind of assistance if required, he said. Modi also praised the people of Odisha for the support and timely help in this hour of crisis. express read Centre bans 14 combination drugs New Delhi: The Centre has prohibited manufacturing, sale and distribution of 14 fixed dose combination (FDC) drugs due to lack of therapeutic justification and for potential risks to humans. These medicines, which include cough syrups, antiallergy drugs and pain relief drugs, have been banned with immediate effect on the advice of an expert committee’s recommendation that they are a risk to health. According to experts, FDCs mix two or more active ingredients in a fixed ratio | P7 Imran to be tried in military court: Pak Min Islamabad: Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has said the chances were that former PM Imran Khan could be tried in a military court for his alleged involvement in the May 9 incidents in which military and state installations were attacked by his party workers. Imran could stand trial in a military court if evidence of his involvement in the May 9 violence surfaced in the coming days, Asif was quoted as saying by The Express Tribune newspaper. He also confirmed that no case had been registered against him so far | P9 Main line tracks restored Two days after one of India’s worst train accidents at Bahanaga Bazar in Odisha’s Balasore district, two of the damaged railway tracks have been made fit to carry trains. The government said on Sunday that both the Up and Down railway tracks at Balasore accident site have been repaired. Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw took stock of the train movement in the affected section. He waved hands as a goods train first moved on the restored track. He also thanked railway staff and people involved in restoration works for ensuring quick movement of trains after the fatal crash. “Both tracks have been restored. Three trains have already passed through the restored tracks and four more have been planned,” he said. 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 ‘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 emant K uma r R o ut @ 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 trans- port 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 ill-fated 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. State govt revises death toll to 275 E x p r e s s N e w s Se r v i c e @ Bhubaneswar Even as identification of bodies and their hand over to their families has emerged a big problem, the state government on Sunday revised the death toll in the Bahanaga train mishap to 275. Chief secretary PK Jena told mediapersons here that the correction was made as some bodies were counted twice - at the accident spot and then at the hospital. After detailed verification and submission of report by the district collector, the final toll in the tragedy has been put at 275. The chief secretary said, 124 bodies have been identified till now and the process of their handing over to their relatives is going on. Eighty five bodies were identified at Balasore and another 39 in Bhubaneswar. He said that as arrival of relatives for identification has been delayed due to disruption in train services, a 17 member specialist embalming team from Bengaluru has reached Bhubaneswar to as- 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 sist in preservation of the dead bodies for more time. Stating that chief minister Naveen Patnaik had requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi in this regard, Jena said as per the medico legal system, postmortem of dead bodies are conducted if those re- main unidentified for more than 48 hours. Efforts are on to preserve the bodies for more time so that they can be handed over to the relatives. Arrangements are also being made to preserve the DNA in the State Forensic Laboaratory, he said. By Sunday night, 180 dead bodies have been brought to Bhubaneswar using 85 ambulances. The chief secretary said that four senior officials N Thirumala Naik, Sushant Kumar Mohanty, Rashmi Ranjan Nayak and Gangadhar Sahu have been entrusted with the charge of facilitating the identification of the dead bodies by the distressed relatives. He said that the officials will ensure that the relatives of the dead passengers do not face any problem during the identification process. After identification, arrangements will be made to send the dead bodies with government expenditure. The Balasore district administration will extend all cooperation to the relatives for obtaining death certificates, he added. The chief secretary said out of the 1,175 injured passengers admitted to hospitals in Soro, Balasore, Bhadrak and Cuttack, 793 have been discharged while 382 are still under treatment. T h e t re at m e n t c o s t i s being borne by the state government. Continued on P5 Centre sets up 3-member inquiry panel to probe Manipur violence A M I T M U K H 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 Justice of Gauhati High Court, will specifically examine the triggers of the May 3 violence that sparked the eth- nic 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 Himanshu Shekhar Das and retired IPS officer Aloka Prabhakar. The commission must submit its report to the Centre as Security personnel during an area domination operation in Manipur | PTI 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 Soli- darity 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.
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