No intention to hide deaths: Odisha govt responds to allegations of hiding toll
Odisha Chief Secretary PK Jena said his government had no intention to hide the deaths in the Balasore train crash and the entire rescue operation was being conducted in full public view.
Reacting to allegations that the death toll figure was being manipulated, he said Odisha believed in transparency.
“Media persons are very much present at the accident site since the beginning. Everything is being done in the presence of cameras,” he said.
“The railways had stated the death toll as 288. We also said that, and the figure was based on information from the railways. But, our Balasore District Collector has verified the death toll, and the figure was 275 till 10 am of Sunday (June 4),” he said.
Asked about the change in the toll, Jena said it was due to double counting of some bodies.
The chief secretary said there was also no prohibition on the entry of media persons at the accident site. “The rescue and even restoration activities went on in full public view,” he said.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee questioned the death figures, stating that 61 people from her state were dead and 182 were still missing.
“If from one state, 182 are missing and 61 are confirmed dead, then where would the figures stand?” she asked, addressing a press conference.
Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw declined to take any questions from journalists in connection with Banerjee’s allegation.
“Of the 275 dead bodies, only 108 have been identified,” the chief secretary said.
He said the state would like all the bodies to be identified so that those could be cremated by their families.
“Keeping in view the prevailing hot weather, the bodies are decomposing fast. Therefore, the state can wait for a maximum of two more days before disposing of them as per the law,” he said.
(With inputs from agencies)