Mumbai Elphinstone Road station stampede: Blame game begins after tragedy
As the news of the stampede at Elphinstone Road railway station spread, political parties blamed the railway ministry for neglecting commuters’ needs.
The Shiv Sena, which is part of the government in Maharashtra and the Centre, blamed former railway minister Suresh Prabhu for ignoring Sena MPs’ demand to widen the foot overbridge.
In a tweet, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said, “On April 23, 2015, Shiv Sena MP Rahul Shewale wrote to railway minister Suresh Prabhu demanding the width of the bridge be increased. MP Arvind Sawant, too, wrote to them on the issue in February 2016. Railway minister Prabhu ignored the letters owing to lack of funds.”
Clarifying on the allegations, the railways said the project was sanctioned in 2016, and the tender work is underway.
Railway minister Piyush Goyal, who was in Mumbai for an event, issued directions for safety and capacity audit of congested foot overbridges in Mumbai. “Wherever there is a need for foot overbridges to be widened, we will do it immediately on high priority,” he said.
Following the incident, PM Narendra Modi took to Twitter and offered condolences to those who lost their lives in the stampede.
Denying rumours that the Sena had sought Goyal’s resignation, a senior Sena leader said, “We don’t want to indulge in petty politics of seeking resignation of a minister who just took charge. However, we have urged him to look into plans to make stations better.”
Senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar hit out at the Devendra Fadnavis-led government, holding it responsible for the stampede. “The bullet train project will not benefit Maharashtra in any way. It is just a propaganda project to showcase the PM. Had Fadnavis thought of improving the condition of railways in Mumbai, such a terrible mishap would not have occurred,” the former deputy chief minister said in Pimpri.
State Congress chief and former chief minister of Maharashtra Ashok Chavan said, “Mumbaiites don’t need a bullet train. They only expect a safe journey in local trains. A judicial probe must be conducted.”
Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, leader of Opposition in the state assembly, demanded a criminal case be registered against the railway administration.
The Sena demanded the recommendations of the high-level safety review committee under the chairmanship of Dr Anil Kakodkar be implemented and Mumbai suburban railway should be brought under an independent authority.