Union Minister of Railways Ashwini Vaishnaw and Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee disagreed over the number of deaths in the Odisha rail crash earlier on Saturday, their argument being captured on camera.
Mr Vaishnaw, standing next to Mamata Banerjee as she interacted with the media, tried to correct her when she suggested that the number of dead could be as high as 500.
“I heard it could be 500,” she said, adding that rescue work in three bogies was not yet complete.
Mr. Vaishnaw said the rescue work has been completed.
#WATCH | Earlier today, WB CM Mamata Banerjee and Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw disagreed over the death toll. Mamata Banerjee said “I heard it can go up to 500” while Vaishnaw said “238 according to state govt data”
— ANI (@ANI) June 3, 2023
She asked what the number of deaths will be after the rescue work is completed. Mr Vaishnaw replied that 238 people had died in the accident involving two passenger trains and a freight train and added that the figure was according to state government records.
However, Mamata Banerjee insisted that the death toll given by the union minister was from Friday.
“It was yesterday. We have information from yesterday that it’s 238… whatever the problem is, we can talk about it together,” she said.
According to Indian Railways, the death toll in the Odisha train tragedy is 288 while 747 people were injured and 56 were seriously injured.
The leader of the Trinamool Congress, who has been a former railway minister, said she was pained and shocked by the accident and that a proper investigation should be conducted. The two passenger trains involved in the accident are coupled to stations in Bengal.
Mamata Banerjee said Railways should be “treated specially”. She said the Railways had a separate budget and claimed there was a “coordination gap”.
“Railways is like our child. I am also a member of the Railway family,” she said, adding that they were ready to make suggestions to the minister.
Union Minister of Education Dharmendra Pradhan was also present along with Vaishnaw.
Later on, Mr. Vaishnaw tried to downplay the disagreement with Mamata Banerjee saying that now is not the time to get into politics but to make sure recovery happens quickly.
“We want full transparency, this is not a time to get into politics, this is time to focus on recovering as soon as possible,” he said when asked if Mamata Banerjee disagreed with him on the number of deaths .
Mamata Banerjee reached Balasore on Saturday. She had described the incident as “biggest rail accident of the 21st century” earlier in the day.
“Coromandel is one of the best express trains. I was Minister of Railways three times. From what I have seen, this is the biggest rail accident of the 21st century. Such cases are transferred to the Railways Safety Commission and they investigate and report. As far as I know there was no anti-collision device on the train. If the device had been on the train, this would not have happened. The dead cannot be brought back, but now our work is a rescue and restoration of business as usual.”, said Prime Minister Banerjee
The preliminary report on the tragedy said the Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express, the Coromandel Express and a freight train on three separate tracks at Bahanaga Bazar Station in the Balasore district were involved in the three-way accident. It had said 17 carriages from these two trains were derailed and badly damaged in the accident that happened Friday night.
Mr. Vaishnaw had previously said that a high-level inquiry into the accident will be conducted. He said the railway safety commissioner will conduct an independent investigation.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and is being published from a syndicated feed.)