Why should Ashwini Vaishnaw not resign for the Balasore Railway tragedy?

Those who are asking Ashwini Vaishnaw to resign on moral grounds after Balasore train tragedy, were never displayed high moral grounds when they were in power.

Ashwini Vaishnao Balasore tragedy
Balasore Tragedy and Ashwini Vaishnaw

The nation is still trying hard to recover from the horrific railway tragedy two days back at Odisha’s Balasore. But for the Indian politicians, it is just another day at the office. I believe that whenever such man-made or natural tragedy happens, no politician should allow visiting the site if he or she is not a minister. In the case of the Balasore disaster, only the railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw should go and handle the rescue on the ground, which exactly he did.

Apart from not allowing politicians to visit the site, they should keep calm and mum until the rescue work is over. At 75+ years, Indians can at least expect this much maturity from their politicians. But, sadly, we have to wait a few decades more to see mature politicians who are not trying to get benefit from something that has involved the loss of numerous human lives.

There will be plenty of chances to criticize politicians once the rescue operations are over and those families who have lost their loved ones return to living normally. Again, the parliament is the best place to criticize or expose the government. But a well-organized press conference should be the next best option if the parliament is not in session. But our politicians are always in a hurry to criticize each other or, in some cases, mock and abuse each other; they either stall the parliament in session or do an on-the-spot press conference without considering the seriousness of the tragedy.

There is one more practice in Indian politics: ‘ demanding the resignation of the concerned minister on moral grounds’. The funniest part of that demand is that such demand has always (or mostly) been made by those politicians whose moral standards are always under the scanner. Anyways, for the last at least 12 to 15 hours, there has been a constant demand for the resignation of Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw by taking moral responsibility for the Balasore Railway tragedy.

As I have explained earlier, being an opposition, it is your right to demand such things as you still lack maturity in your politics. But, the demand came when Ashwini Vaishnaw was already at the rescue site for the last 24 hours (when I am writing this, almost 36 hours have passed) and tirelessly observing or captaining the operations. If one can’t wait for the parliament session or can’t wait to hold an organized press conference, then at least he should wait till the minister is free from the rescue operation that he is present at without looking even once at his watch.

But no, this is a precedent in Indian politics that anything untrue ward happens under any ministry, there will be a demand for a resignation of a concerned minister. In this case, where the railway ministry is involved, which is a gigantic organization, if a minister resigns immediately after such a colossal tragedy, can you imagine the derailment of the rescue mission even before it begins? The officers supposed to get involved in rescue will be clueless initially.

What is moral responsibility, by the way? Only a thorough inquiry will clear who was the main culprit of the Balasore rail accident, but how can a minister be morally responsible for such an accident? Was he the person looking after that section of the Indian railway only? No, he looks after the entire railway infrastructure, so such accidents (Bhagwan forbid) happen repeatedly then, one can sense that there is something wrong with the minister or the ministry itself, and then there should be a question on the minister’s morality.

The second question is whether Ashwini Vaishnaw was directly involved in the appointments of that railway personnel who ultimately were found guilty of not serving their duties correctly. The answer is again no. The railway staff from the top to the bottom is being selected through a strict examination and selection process. So, if the minister is not directly involved in those appointments, what moral responsibility are you talking about?

These two questions raised here may look stupid, but when you check names about moral responsibility, you will understand that they don’t have the locus standie at least on morality. I won’t go into detail about those two guys, but one is Sharad Pawar and the other is Lalu Prasad Yadav.

Whenever there is a train tragedy, people always quote Lal Bahadur Shastri and his resignation after an accident near Lucknow railway station due to the alleged negligence of the railway staff. But those were different days. I remember Madhavrao Scindia resigned as a Civil Aviation Minster after a tragedy in 1991. These were only two instances in Indian political history when a minister resigned after man-made tragedies. So, the moral of the story is no minister after Lal Bahadur Shastri, between him and Madhavrao Scindia. After Scindia has resigned due to a man-made tragedy, and that is why there is no need for Mr Vaishnaw to resign.

But those were different days; today is a different age, and one needs to be practical. Plus, we know that those talking about the morality of Ashwini Vaishnaw didn’t support morality as and when they required it during their respective tenors. If they had stood on their moral ground, then even the public would have expected the same from Mr Vaishnaw, but…

Another reason, and a very strong reason to support the argument that why Ashwini Vaishnaw should not resign after the Balasore tragedy, is that he is in charge of the ministry already. He is aware of the hierarchy of his ministry and also aware of who is good and who is not so good at conducting such huge rescue operations. So right now, he is the best person not only to conduct the operations but also to manage the restoration work that will follow after the entire rescue gets officially over.

Had he resigned on the day of the Balasore railway accident, the Prime Minister had to depute an already busy minister for the rescue by giving him the extra charge of the Railway ministry. That new minister would have been clueless at the starting point itself, and that would have hampered the operations in a big way.

But as we see in the last 24 hours that the rescue is going on a war footing, and Ashwini Vaishnaw is very much present at site and giving his guidance to the officers. That had become a possibility only when he did not resign. In today’s politics taking moral ground may glitter your name in the history books, but not resigning and fighting it out on the ground would make you a hero; right now, for many Indians, Ashwini Vaishnaw is a hero, if not less.

I would withstand whatever I have written here in future as well. People who know me through various social media networks know my political lineage. Still, on certain things, I have a very clear mind and ideas on how politicians should do their job by getting practical at the situation and considering their actual job. Political opponents, no matter which party they belong to, will always do their job. Thus, the concerned minister should also do the same by sticking the massive work in their hands at the testing time and should not run away from their responsibilities by just resigning from their post.

That’s all from me right now, till next time it’s ‘Aavjo’ from my side.

4th June 2023, Sunday




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