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Cong, Sena dub Elphinstone stampede investigation report as eyewash

The opposition Congress and the ruling ally Shiv Sena have dubbed as mere “eyewash” the findings of a panel which probed the stampede at the Elphinstone Road station here last month.

The five-member inquiry panel, led by Western Railways Chief Safety Officer S K Singla, had submitted its report and recommendations to WRs General Manager on Wednesday.

The report said the stampede, in which 23 lives were lost, was triggered by heavy rains as also panic caused after people mistook the cries of a vendor losing grip of his flowers for the bridge collapsing.

Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant termed the inquiry report as an “eyewash” and said the reasons given in it seemed illogical.

“How can the railways absolve itself of the responsibility? The truth is that they ignored the deteriorating condition of infrastructure at the station despite repeated calls and alerts from the passengers,” Sawant alleged.

He said even he had raised the issue several times.

Mumbai Congress unit Chief Sanjay Nirupam also termed the inquiry report as a “cover-up” and said his party workers would conduct their own audit of the major suburban railway stations in Mumbai.

“This report is a complete eyewash and cover-up. The incident took place because of the criminal negligence on the part of railway officers and they should be booked anyways. Thank God that a few people have knocked the doors of the Bombay High Court,” Nirupam alleged.

“But we have now decided to carry out own audit of the railways infrastructure through our own structural engineers and submit it (report) to the railway authorities and the court, if needed,” he said.

Sudheendra Kulkarni, the chairman of the Observer Research Foundation, that conducts studies of railway infrastructure on a regular basis, also said the responsibility of the tragedy lies with the railway officials.

“Blaming rain and rumours is like blaming the victims who got trampled due to the long neglect of the railways. The babus sat on the file for over 18 months despite frequent submissions from several quarters. So I think the official concerned should be booked and punished,” he alleged.

Kulkarni said it was high time that the local trains, monorail, metro rail and the bus services are operated by an integrated multi-model transport authority based in Mumbai.

However, Vivek Sahai, the former chairman of Railway Board, said the incident took place due to several factors adding up in a very short span of time.

“Since I have not gone through the report, I cannot comment much on this. But I feel the stampede was the outcome so many factors occurring all of sudden and in a very short span of time,” Sahai said.

Kailash Verma, the general secretary of Mumbai Rail Pravasi Sangh, an association of rail activists, alleged that red-tapism in the railways was responsible for the tragedy.

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