Tuesday, September 10, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Rajdhani jumps track, 100 feared dead 

New Delhi, Sept 10
A luxury express train jumped the tracks on a bridge over a river in eastern India overnight, killing at least 28 people in what one minister said was an act of sabotage.

"We are confirming 25 dead, but it is going to rise, 100 are feared dead," Bandaru Dattatreya, junior minister for railways, told Reuters on Tuesday. He said 100 people had been taken to hospital with serious injuries.

The air-conditioned Rajdhani Express, heading to New Delhi from the eastern city of Calcutta, left the rails on a bridge near the town of Gaya in the eastern state of Bihar late on Monday.

Railway officials said one coach was in the river while two were left hanging precariously from the bridge.

"We have confirmed 28 dead and 180 injured," railway spokesman Devendra Sandhu told Reuters later.

"We had about 600 people on board, including the railway staff," he added. "About 250 survivors are being put on a train for Delhi while 75 are going back to Calcutta." 

The minister said fishplates binding the tracks together had been removed and that Maoist guerrillas fighting for the rights of peasants in the poverty-stricken Bihar could be to blame.

"It is totally sabotage, fishplates have been removed. That area is Maoist infested," he said.

But police in Bihar poured cold water on the idea.

"This does not appear to be a case of sabotage...the railway authorities have jumped to a conclusion without even caring to verify the ground realities," inspector-general of police (operations) Neelmani (Eds: one word) told Press Trust of India.

Neelmani said Maoists had never targeted passenger trains in the past. He said they had blasted railway tracks but always informed authorities beforehand to avert casualties.

Deluxe train

The train crashed at around 10.35 p.m. near Rafiqganj station near Gaya, which is 655 km (410 miles) northwest of Calcutta.

The Rajdhani Express is a deluxe train which connects the Indian capital to important cities across the country. It has no crowding normally associated with Indian trains as it is fully air-conditioned and more expensive than regular express services. 

Ashish Ranjan Sinha, Bihar's additional director general of police, said part of the bridge collapsed.

"One coach is fully under water. Three others are hanging from the bridge," Sinha told Hindi TV news channel Aaj Tak.

"It is a hilly forest area which has received heavy rains recently. So the river is swollen and also has strong currents." 

Most of India's one billion population still depend on the country's rail network of over 63,000 km (40,000 miles), the second largest in the world, as the main form of transport.

Indian Railways, which marked 150 years of its existence earlier this year, runs nearly 14,000 trains carrying more than 13 million passengers a day and has some 300 accidents a year.

The Rajdhani Express Web site bills the train as a "unique opportunity of experiencing Indian Railways at its best", adding: "Afternoon snacks and tea are offered after the trains begin their journey. Indian and continental cuisine, soft music and the train's rhythmic movements provide a comfortable journey."

Transport experts say a surge in traffic and a lack of modernisation have made the railways vulnerable to accidents.

But rail authorities defend their safety record saying the accident rate dropped to 0.57 per million km travelled in 1996/97 from 5.5 in the early 1960s.

The crashed train left Calcutta around 5.30 p.m. on Monday. It had been due in the Indian capital on Tuesday morning.

In order to provide information about the incident Northern Railway has set up enquiry booths at different stations on its system with telephone number as follows:

New Delhi - 011- 3344129
Delhi - 011- 3967332
Hazrat Nizammudin - 011- 4359748
Allahabad - 0532 - 603954, 600191 
Kanpur - 0512-322223



Crisis over; top players for Sri Lanka

Selection committee members
Selection committee members before their meeting in Kolkata on Monday. — PTI photo

Kolkata, September 9
The month-long crisis over the ICC sponsorship issue blew over today with the Indian cricket board deciding to send its top players to the Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka after the International Cricket Council climbed down further and made a compromise offer.

The Indian team will be led by Saurav Ganguly and have all the top stars, including Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag, Cricket Board President Jagmohan Dalmiya said after a lengthy worldwide tele-conference with the ICC and the participating countries.

The dramatic resolution came after the ICC agreed to bear all the expenses that may arise out of legal complications flowing from the controversial contract that bars players from advertising for companies that have a clash of interest with the official sponsors.

While the Indian players struck a deal with the ICC, the board had taken a tough posture and had given the players time till 2 pm today to sign the contract or be left out of the team for Sri Lanka.

After the players rejected the board’s ultimatum and conditions, BCCI’s Selection Committee met here and picked a second-string team to be headed by veteran all-rounder Robin Singh but withheld its announcement till the tele-conference was over.

The 14-member team announced by Dalmiya includes Dinesh Mongia, Mohd Kaif, Yuvraj Singh, Ajit Agarkar, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, V V S Laxman, J P Yadav, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh.

The players, who were given the two-day ultimatum on Saturday, finalised their strategy last night and sent a letter to the board president expressing their inability to accept the conditions set by the BCCI.

The players said it was not a question of money but one of “principles and integrity”.

Following this, Mr Dalmiya issued a brief statement in which he sarcastically referred to the players’ stand on principles and said the Colombo tournament would be played very much for money.

He also directed the Selection Committee to go ahead with the job of choosing a second-string team, saying India was “morally and legally bound” to play in the mini World Cup in Sri Lanka.

The details of the latest deal between the ICC and the BCCI are yet to be made public. Tracing the day’s developments, Mr Dalmiya said the tele-conference lasted two hours during which the issue of damage claim on the board was discussed.

He said the board had taken the unprecedented step of allowing the players to negotiate directly with the ICC and welcomed the outcome of those negotiations.

But surprisingly, Mr Dalmiya said, the ICC came up with a damage claim and the board had to go to the working committee.

“We then decided that only those players who sign the players’ terms will be eligible for selection. This morning, the ICC requested me to postpone the decision of the selection committee.

“But I said since only 72 hours were left for the tournament, let us go ahead with the scheduled meeting but we can withhold announcement of the decision taken by the meeting till an agreement is reached between us,” Mr Dalmiya said.

Expressing happiness over the new agreement, Mr Dalmiya said a model contract would be sent to the ICC and the redrafted agreement would be received by the board in a couple of days which the players would sign.

He said any financial consequences arising out of the Champions Trophy would be borne by the ICC Development International (IDI), the financial arm of the world governing body.

Mr Dalmiya said the board stood by its commitment to compensate the players for any claims made on them by their sponsors arising out of bar on personal advertising for 35-days — 18 days during and 17 days after the tournament.

About the 24 players who had signed the ICC agreement, he said the board appreciated their gesture and would reward them suitably.

Mr Dalmiya said in the world-wide tele-conferencing almost all the chief executives of the member countries participated to arrive at the decision to break the deadlock which had threatened the Champions Trophy.

“The things are now settled and we are quite happy at the conclusion”, he said.

“Though we have not received anything in black and white now we understand that terms as agreed upon between the players and the ICC and as decided at the tele-conferencing will reach us by tonight to formalise the entire thing,” Mr Dalmiya said.

The team, which concluded its 83-day England tour today, would leave London tomorrow to participate in the Champions Trophy beginning on Thursday. PTI


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