Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu has taken "full moral responsibility" of two train accidents in a week
New Delhi: After two train accidents in five days, Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and tweeted today that he had taken "full moral responsibility", suggesting that he had offered to quit. The Prime Minister, he shared, had asked him to "wait". Commenting on the move, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said: "Accountability is a good system." PM Modi will take a decision on "whatever request Suresh Prabhu has made", he added.
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"I met the Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking full moral responsibility. Honourable PM has asked me to wait," Mr Prabhu said in tweets. He cancelled all his meetings and appointments after speaking to PM Modi.
The minister tweeted hours after it emerged that Railway Board chairman AK Mittal had resigned owning moral responsibility. Ashwini Lohani, the chairman of national carrier Air India, will replace him as the new chief of the board that takes important decisions on railways.
Mr Mittal, the first board chief to be granted a two-year extension, was reportedly asked to quit after the Utkal Express derailment in Uttar Pradesh.
On Saturday, 23 people died and over 200 were injured when 13 coaches of the train came off the tracks about 100 km from Delhi.
This morning, 10 coaches of the Kaifiyat Express heading towards Delhi derailed after colliding with a dumper, again in Uttar Pradesh. Over 70 people were injured, said reports.
Mr Prabhu said he was extremely pained and anguished by the accidents. "In less than three years as Minister, I have devoted my blood and sweat...," he said in a tweet, adding that he had tried to overcome "decades of neglect".
Back-to-back crashes in less than a week have provoked opposition calls for Mr Prabhu's resignation.
Since last year, there have been 186 deaths in train derailments, which is the highest in 10 years. This year, there have been 62 incidents.
"Prabhu should resign immediately if he has iota of morality left in him after today's incident which has left 74 more people injured. It is worst kind of tokenism asking the rail board chairman or any other official to step aside," said Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari.
Mr Prabhu's move coincides with intense speculation about a cabinet reshuffle expected next week to fill vacancies in the defence, environment and urban development ministries.