Days after Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge targeted the Railways over the Odisha train tragedy in which at least 288 people died, four Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) parliamentarians on Friday termed the criticism "high on rhetoric and low on facts", saying "it does not suit a leader of your (addressing Kharge) stature to be writing letters to the Prime Minister based on 'WhatsApp University' assertions.
In the four-page letter to Kharge, BJP MP Tejashwi Surya and others said: "In response to your recent letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi Ji, we must say, we found it high on rhetoric and low on facts."
The BJP MPs said that Kharge, as a former Minister of Railways, "one would anticipate your discernment of the situation to be infused with depth and understanding".
"Yet, your recent communication to us suggests otherwise. We must, therefore, break down the reality for you, with factual replies to your conjectures," the BJP MPs said.
Taking on Kharge's charge over employment, they said that in the past nine years, Railways appointed 4.58 lakh new appointees and currently the recruitment process to appoint about 1.52 lakh candidates is ongoing.
"Thus, in our 10 years, we would appoint more than 6.1 lakh youngsters, which is almost 50 per cent more than of 4.11 lakh candidates appointed during the 10 years of UPA," the MPs said.
The letter also said that 5,518 freshly appointed Assistant Loco Pilots "quash your allegations about neglecting this sector".
"The incident of February 2023 that you have mentioned was thoroughly investigated by Railways. All the Railways personnel were counselled on the strict implementation of maintenance practices," they said on South Western Railway report.
Hitting back at the Congress Rajya Sabha MP, they said that it may also be noted that "there was no collision in Mysore as stated in your letter".
"It doesn't suit a leader of your stature to be writing letters to the PM based on what has been received from 'WhatsApp University'. But perhaps as the Vice-Chancellor of WhatsApp University, you are forced to regurgitate fake news as facts," they alleged.
"You have held the responsibility of the Ministry of Railways and you must be aware that the Commissioner of Railway Safety is an independent and statutory authority," the BJP MPs submitted.
Attacking the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, the BJP MPs said that recently in 2022, the Commission was strengthened by upgrading the post of CRS to Apex level.
"The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture in its 323rd report dated 22nd December 2022, that you have mentioned, has also appreciated in Para 28 that almost 90 per cent of the recommendations of CRS have been accepted by the Ministry of Railways during the last five years," they said.
"You raise concerns about safety investments, yet under our (BJP) tenure, the Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK) was established for critical safety-related works. Railways spent over Rs 1 lakh crore on RRSK works between 2017-18 and 2021-22.
"Our total safety expenditure in the last 9 years of Rs 1,78,012 crore is 2.5 times the expenditure during your era. It is amusing how you have the confidence to lecture us on rail safety after performing so miserably during the 10 years of UPA," they alleged.
The BJP leaders also said that the fact remains that "we developed and adopted the Anti-Collision device National Automatic Train Protection (ATP) in July 2020. After successful testing of ATP, it was installed as KAVACH on 1,465 RKM (route km) on South Central Railway".
"The Anti-Collision Device developed by Konkan Railway during your government did not pass the necessary technical and operational feasibility requirements. A new system was developed and successfully adopted as In the next phase, KAVACH will be installed on 34,000 RKM at the cost of Rs 13,000 crore. The first 3,000 RKM on Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Howrah will be operational next year," it said.
The remarks of BJP leaders came days after Kharge wrote to Modi over the tragic train accident in Odisha, which led to the death of 288 passengers and over 800 injured. (IANS/NS)