Suresh Prabhu offers to quit as Railway Minister, Air India chief Ashwani Lohani to head Railway Board

Suresh Prabhu, sources said, called up the Prime Minister around 7 am and offered to step down. Modi asked him to come for the Cabinet meeting scheduled for 10.30 am.

Written by Avishek G Dastidar | New Delhi | Updated: August 24, 2017 8:51 am
Suresh Prabhu, suresh prabhu quits, ashwani lohani, air india chief, prabhu quits, railway minister quits, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, new railway minister, Train Accidents Rail Minister Suresh Prabhu offered to resign on Wednesday. (Source: Express photo by Renuka Puri)

Taking “full moral responsibility” for the spate of train accidents under his watch, Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu met Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday morning and offered to resign. He said he was asked by the Prime Minister to “wait”. But signalling the government’s intent for change in the leadership of the national transporter, Railway Board chairman A K Mittal was replaced Wednesday by Air India chief Ashwani Lohani. Sources said Mittal, whose term was to end July next year, had asked to be relieved of office Tuesday. Lohani will remain on the post until December 2018.

The developments came on the day when another train accident took place in Uttar Pradesh in the early hours. A dumper truck strayed into the path of the Delhi-bound Kaifiyat Express in Auraiya district, causing nine coaches to derail. At least 81 people were injured.

Suresh Prabhu, sources said, called up the Prime Minister around 7 am and offered to step down. Modi asked him to come for the Cabinet meeting scheduled for 10.30 am. While the Cabinet was briefed about the accident, Suresh Prabhu met Modi after the meeting and expressed his willingness to put in his papers.

“I met the Hon’ble Prime Minister @narendramodi taking full moral responsibility. Hon’ble PM has asked me to wait,” Suresh Prabhu tweeted at 2.40 pm. By then, the process to replace Mittal was already underway. Responding to queries from reporters after the Cabinet meeting, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said: “Accountability is a good system in government. PM will take a call on whatever request Suresh Prabhu has made to him.”

Whether the Prime Minister will stop at Lohani’s appointment or accept Suresh Prabhu’s resignation to bring in a new face will be clear if and when a Cabinet reshuffle does take place, sources said. Within an hour of Suresh Prabhu’s tweet, the BJP’s official IT cell started posting a series of tweets on “Myths vs Reality” to show that the railway safety performance under the NDA tenure was not worse off. In some areas of safety, the tweets said, the performance was better than before.

From the 1980 batch of the Indian Railway Service of Mechanical Engineers, Lohani’s appointment also signals that the government no longer believes that the present board can bring about the perceptible change in railways that it desires, top sources told The Indian Express.

The only Railway Board chairman not to have served as a zonal railway general manager, Lohani is called “turnaround man” in bureaucratic circles owing to his performance in India Tourism Development Corporation and Madhya Pradesh Tourism. While in Air India, Lohani advocated empowering and motivating existing employees to turn around the carrier.

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  1. Damodar Biswal
    Aug 24, 2017 at 12:55 pm
    Suresh Prabhu is an efficient n non corrupt minister but luck deserted him.He has done good work but should have given more emphasis on passenger safety.Majority Indians r poor.They do not travel in Rajdahi or satabdi.They need good facilities at affordable rate n safe journey.The minister gave more emphasis on luxury trains n less emphasis on passenger safety.
    1. C
      Aug 24, 2017 at 11:17 am
      If Modi ask him to stay then expect 100s more Train accidents in next two years. BJP has the habit of keeping in power all those responsible of wrongdoings.
      1. H
        Aug 24, 2017 at 9:37 am
        I expected much from Suresh Prabhu. Sorry to say - I was deeply disapponted. Be it puncyual running of trains or standards of Railway Catering - in 3 years I found no improvement. In fact punctual running of trains has become worse than when he took over in 2014. Sad to say and with sincere apologies : Suresh Prabhu was a FLOP as Railway Minister.
        1. M
          Aug 24, 2017 at 8:32 am
          Irresponsible Top management including Minister cannot escape responsibility it is their responsibility and accountability to ensure that system works. Minister is responsible for the mishaps. If he escapes responsibility it will mean present ruling politicians are there only to enjoy pay and perqusites with no responsibility and accountability if things go wrong at the ground level. Gorakhpur Hospital incident / Accidents in railways , slow progress in Vyapam scam and related deaths show a pattern in escaping responsibility and accountability by political establishment of the day.
          1. S
            Aug 24, 2017 at 6:15 am
            Before leaving office, the Railway minister should sack the entire negligent chain – from Railway board chairman, the main Railway Officer in-charge of Operations, the Divisional Head under which the accident falls, the divisional station manager, the divisional personnel manager/HR officer, the signal man, and all the maintenance employees down to the field mechanic of the division. Safety is everyone's business and responsibility - not just a minister's, and until this is well understood and accepted, accidents will continue to happen whoever you bring at the top. Unless the intent is political g standing, the only way to stop accidents is through an honest inquiry to nail all those directly involved with the decisions and actions on that day of accident, and sack them. Only a strict action against erring officials/workers will bring a sense of responsibility to the negligent.
            1. T
              Thrinethran T
              Aug 24, 2017 at 8:25 am
              It has much more to do with overworking capacity , inadequacy of safety staff, and the working conditions and comforts of the lower-level personnel.
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