New Delhi: With the promise of "strictest possible action" against the guilty, government on Monday announced in Parliament a thorough probe aided by latest technical and forensic analysis into yesterday's train accident near Kanpur in which over 133 people were killed.
Making suo motu statement in the Lok Sabha amid noisy protests by the opposition over demonetisation, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said the exercise to replace old coaches lacking crash-worthy features, announced in the Rail Budget, will also be expedited.
In the Rajya Sabha, Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain made the statement, which was objected to by the Opposition leaders who demanded that Railway Minister should do so.
A statutory inquiry by the Commissioner of Railway Safety has also been ordered to find the correct cause of the accident, Prabhu said. "There shall be separate comprehensive investigation aided by latest technical and forensic analysis by an appropriate agency to look into all possible angles. Strictest possible action would be taken against the guilty," he said expressing profound grief over the tragedy.
Prabhu also gave details of the relief and rescue operation launched by the railways. He along with Railway Board Chairman visited the spot and interacted with the injured. Several other top officials including his junior Manoj Sinha, also visited the site.
An enhanced ex-gratia of Rs 3.5 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased, Rs 50,000 to the grievously injured and Rs 25,000 to those with simple injuries and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also announced an additional amount of Rs 2 lakh and Rs 50000 for the kin of the killed and those injured, he said.
Old-technology coaches in operation lack the crash-worthy characteristics of modern coaches, Prabhu said.
"I had informed this House during the previous Railway Budget that such coaches will be progressively replaced and phased out. This will be expedited," he said.
When Gohain rose to read the statement, Congress leader Anand Sharma said he was not a Cabinet Minister. "The Railway Minister made a statement in the other House. But this House is not being given its due respect...," he said.
"The Cabinet Minister is not busy. He is available. It is a serious matter. Members have said so. Members are aggrieved," he said.
Sharma added that the opposition will not have any clarifications today unless and until their demand of Prime Minister being present was met.
BSP leader Satish Chandra Misra supported Sharam and said, "How casually they are taking this accident, the Railway Minister himself is not here".
To this, Kurien reminded the House that he too has been a Minister of State and the position is not of "casual Minister".
The opposition MPs objected to the fact that the government did not even circulate the statement among the members.
The Deputy Chairman said: "There is no harm in MoS making the statement."
As Gohain read his statement, the protesting members kept on shouting slogans against the government and Modi, saying "Jan virodhi Narendra Modi hosh mein aao, hosh mein aao".
(Anti-people Narendra Modi come to your senses) and "Gali Gali main shor hai, Narendra Modi chor hai".
As the Minister finished reading out his statement, Kurien said that since the House is not in order today, clarifications can be done later.
"Since the House is not in order today, if Members want clarifications, it can be done on another day," he said.