Railway Minister lied that loco pilots were watching cricket during Andhra train accident

Without sufficient evidence or proof, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has falsely implicated the two deceased engine operators.

In the Vizianagaram area of Andhra Pradesh state in southern India, two passenger trains collided on October 29, 2023, resulting in at least 14 fatalities and around 50 injuries. Several coaches derailed after the Visakhapatnam-Rayagada Passenger Special train collided with the Visakhapatnam-Palasa Passenger Express. This derailment occurred in Andhra Pradesh between the towns of Alamanda and Kantakapalle.

What did the Railway Minister say?

Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw revealed the reason for the disaster on March 2, 2024, pointing out that the driver and the assistant driver of one of the two passenger trains that collided and killed 14 people on October 29, 2023, were watching a cricket match on their phones.

Vaishnaw mentioned the Andhra train disaster when discussing the new safety protocols that Indian Railways has been developing.

“The recent case in Andhra Pradesh happened because both the loco pilot and co-pilot were distracted by the cricket match which was going on. Now we are installing systems that can detect any such distraction and ensure that the pilots and the assistant pilots are fully focussed on running the train.”

Then he went on to add, “We will continue to put our focus on safety. We try to find out the root cause of every incident and we come up with a solution so that it is not repeated.”

A preliminary railway investigation conducted the day after the accident found that the passenger train of Rayagada was driven by its assistant driver and that it had passed two defective auto signals, in violation of regulations.

The Commissioners of Railway Safety (CRS) were yet to make the investigation’s findings public at the time.

Without proof, Mr. Vaishnaw accused the loco operators:

The Hindu article reported, “According to sources in the East Coast Railway, the analysis of data usage on mobile phones used by Loco Pilot S.M.S Rao and Assistant Loco Pilot S. Chiranjeevi – both of whom died in the accident did not indicate that they were watching cricket. The call details and data usage were analyzed by the Senior Divisional Signal and Telecommunications Engineer and the Divisional Safety Officer of the Waltair Division. The Commissioner of Railway Safety Pranjeev Saxena, who conducted a detailed inquiry into the accident, has also not made any mention of the loco pilots watching cricket in his report.”

However, the Railway Minister claimed to a New Delhi news outlet on March 3 that “both the loco pilot and co-pilot were distracted by the cricket match which was going on. We are already implementing devices that can recognize this kind of distraction and ensure that the pilots and their copilots are entirely focused on operating the train.”

The sources, nevertheless, stated that Mr. Vaishnaw’s accusation is unsupported by any evidence.

It was a “grave” mistake, according to a top Waltair Division official, to have gone on record accusing the loco pilot and his assistant—who had both passed away instantly—of watching cricket while they were on duty. “At this time, there’s no proof to support this. All that existed was a rumor. Based on humanitarian considerations, we have given their spouses jobs,” the unnamed officer stated.

It is highly condemnable that Minister Mr. Vaishnaw is accusing the co-pilot and loco-pilot, who were both dead at the scene of the accident, without providing adequate evidence for his assertions. The minister ought to have acted with empathy and decency by refraining from making allegations against the victims before the conclusion of the investigation.

These days, it is easy to disseminate false information, and once stated, it is very challenging to later ascertain the facts and the truth.

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Indu Meenakshi

Indu Meenakshi is a former Microbiologist-turned-journalist, works as a Sub-Editor at YouTurn. She additionally holds Master’s in Management and English Literature. As a fact-checker, her job entails actively dispelling false information found online, exposing fake news, and raising public awareness.
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