18 sabotage attempts in last 40 days: Suresh Prabhu

NEW DELHI: The railways has witnessed an “unusual” jump in “sabotage” cases in recent days with the transporter reporting around 18 such incidents in less than 40 days of 2017, causing serious concern over safety of train operations.

Sabotage attempts by placing boulders, concrete slab, stone slab or rail pieces on tracks across the country, from Lucknow division, Mumbai, Waltair, Allahabad and Malda – were foiled by vigilant railway staff in recent days.

Faced with a series of rail mishaps allegedly due to “sabotage”, the railway brass has issued directives to all employees and the Railway Protection Force (RPF) to remain alert and intensify patrolling.

“Cases of man-made obstructions, tampering of track and removing fish plates have been detected by rail staff in recent days,” said an official, giving details of 18 such incidents across the country this year.

In Lok Sabha on Wednesday, railway minister Suresh Prabhu expressed concern over “unusual” activities reported in the past few days, alleging that attempts were made to sabotage rail tracks and carry out explosions.

He said there were seven “blast attempts” and three cases of attempted sabotage, among others.

Mentioning that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) was investigating a case related to derailment of a train near Kanpur in UP, Prabhu said there were “unusual” activities in the last few days and some incidents were averted due to the alertness of railway personnel.

On January 23, Prabhu had written to home minister Rajnath Singh seeking a detailed probe by the NIA into the recent spate of train mishaps and listed six incidents of “possibility of criminal interference by outsiders”.

At least 39 people were killed after nine coaches of Hirakhand Express derailed near Kuneru station in Andhra Pradesh on January 21.

On November 20 last year, 14 coaches of the Indore-Patna Express had derailed near Kanpur, killing 151 people. This was followed by the derailment of Sealdah-Ajmer Express on December 28 near Rura station that left more than 50 passengers injured.

In the letter, Prabhu had mentioned the Hirakhand Express derailment, the instance of a “cooker bomb” at Ghorasahan station and detection of deep cuts on tracks near Kanpur on January 1.