Wednesday, February 21, 2007


While the top leadership of India and Pakistan is talking peace, the railway authorities on both sides are locked in a war of words.
Officials from the Northern Railway have strongly objected to allegations that the bogies of Samjhauta Express were locked from outside. “It is absolutely wrong. The trains in India cannot be locked from outside,” said Northern Railway’s chief PRO Rajeev Saxena. He made it clear that there was no discrimination against the Pakistani nationals and all the passengers in Samjhauta Express traveled like any other train in India.
Pakistan’s Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid had alleged in the country’s Parliament on Monday that the two ill-fated bogies of Samjhauta Express were locked from outside which prevented passengers from escaping the burning train which is why the death toll was so high. The minister said that people died or were critically injured because they were in a “locked-up cage”. There were 553 Pakistanis among total 757 passengers on board.
Despite the heated language from both sides, Pakistan wants to send a four-member railway team to be part of the investigations. In a letter to the Ministry of External Affairs, Pakistan has expressed willingness to join investigations and assess the security provided on Samjhauta Express. India is yet to respond on this request.
Meanwhile, chief booking supervisor DK Sabbarwal and two clerks of the Railway booking counter at Old Delhi station have been suspended for improper maintenance of records of the tickets issued for the Delhi-Attari train. The two clerks - Surendra Kumar and Rakesh Maini - were posted at the general class booking counters and were suspended for issuing tickets without checking visas and passports.
Amidst suspensions and interrogations following blasts in Samjhauta Express, the railway ministry is also planning to shift the departure and arrival of this trans-border train from old Delhi Railway Station to Safdarjung Railway Station.
The shift will be done keeping in mind the security and verification of the passengers since Safdarjung station remains relatively empty. However, in the absence of any infrastructure, the train will continue to run from old Delhi station.


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