28 dead in Bihar rail tragedy: Railway minister
Twenty-eight people were killed and six were injured after they were mowed down by a speeding train in Bihar Monday morning, Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge said in a statement in the Rajya Sabha. However, Bihar police said that 37 people had been killed
"As per the last information, 28 people were run over and lost their lives while six were injured," Kharge said in his statement.
According to the minister, the incident occurred at Dhamara Ghat railway station in Samastipur division of Bihar.
Asked by members why he had not described the tragedy as an accident, Kharge said it was an incident.
He said it was a runover, an incident and not an accident. The minister said he had described the tragedy as in incident under section 124 A of the Railway Act.
He said that agitated mob had burnt some coaches but the locomotive driver was safe.
Giving the sequence of events, Kharge said that at about 8.33 a.m. the Madhepura-Samastipur passenger train heading towards Samastipur was halted at the station. At 8.48 a.m. the Samastipur-Madhepura passenger train heading towards Madhepura too was stopped to give precedence to Rajyarani Express.
Some passengers from both the trains got down "on the non-platform side".
In the meantime at about 8.50 a.m., the Rajyarani express approached the Dharama Ghat railway station platform.
"The loco pilot after passing home signal, which was on a curvature, saw some people standing on the tracks and applied emergency brakes. However, by the time the train stopped, some people had been run over," he said.
The minister said that he had spoken to Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh to issue directions to the commissioner of railway safety to inquire into the tragedy.
Kharge said he had spoken to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to maintain law and order and take necessary steps for facilitating normal train operations.
Kharge said that the medical relief train left from Barauni at 9.55 a.m. He announced a relief of Rs.5 lakh for the next of kin of the dead and Rs.1 lakh for the injured.
Asked about media reports that 37 people had been killed, Kharge said he had checked with senior railway officials that 28 people had lost their lives.
Expressing deep condolences on the incident, Kharge said while 27 died on the spot, one succumbed on his way to the hospital.
Bharatiya Janata Party member Ravi Shankar Prasad asked if the Railways had informed the local authorities of likely rush due to a festival and if they had shown minimum degree of alertness.
Janata Dal-United member N.K. Singh said that the Railways should find out about "neglect that led to a colossal loss".
Rashtriya Janata Dal member Ram Kirpal Yadav accused the Nitish Kumar government of not having acted with alacrity in the wake of rush of passengers and failing to prevent burning of coaches.
Members also sought higher compensation for the victims.