Published On: Sat, Oct 20th, 2018

CM orders mgisterial probe into Amritsar train tragedy; Minister denies Railways’ lapse

Amritsar: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh said on Saturday the Jalandhar Divisional Commissioner will conduct an inquiry within four weeks into the Amritsar train tragedy in which 59 people were crushed by a speeding train.

The incident happened some 340 metres from an interlocked level crossing of the railways

The Chief minister also said that nine of those killed were yet to be identified, while 57 other Dussehra revellers were injured as the Jalandhar-Amritsar Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) passenger train mowed them down at Jora Phatak here.

Earlier, the toll was reported to be 60.

Amarinder Singh, who reached the accident site on Saturday from Delhi, said the inquiry will look into all aspects, including whether the train followed the signals and if there was any trespassing.

“It’s a terrible tragedy we all accept it. Inquiry will find out who is at fault and who is not. I cannot prejudge an inquiry. Let them come up with the report. I have given four weeks for the inquiry to be completed,” he said.

On the other hand, Union Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha on Saturday said his ministry is not to be blamed for any lapses leading to the disaster.

The Railways was not informed about the Dusshera ceremony near the Jora Phatak vicinity either by the area administration or the event organisers, he added.

“In fact, the Commissioner (Amritsar) in his report has said he has not granted permission to hold the Dusshera festival at the spot,” Sinha, who visited the accident site at midnight, told reporters.

Sinha said the venue was nearly 70 metres from the accident spot which was not the Railways’.

Witnesses and survivors said the deafening noise of fire crackers masked the sound of the approaching train.

Saying it was not the time for the blame game, Sinha added that there was no provision of barricading along railway tracks across the country.

Earlier Chairman Railway Board Ashwani Lohani had explained that the accident site falls under the “mid-section of the two stations” where the trains run at their “assigned speed” as per the condition of the track.

Lohani on Saturday also dismissed the railways’ responsibility in the tragedy. “The place where the accident happened was basically mid-section between two stations — Mananwala and Amritsar and not at a level crossing.”

“Trains run at their assigned speed and people are not expected to go on the tracks. It was a clear case of trespassing,” he said.

“It’s the duty of the public not to hold public functions near the railway tracks. Even the local administration should not allow such functions,” Sinha said, adding “The driver could not see the crowd standing on the tracks because of the curve,” he added.

According to a senior railway official, the incident happened some 340 metres from an interlocked level crossing of the railways.

Lohani also said that the railway posts its staff at the manned level crossing to regulate the road traffic and nod at the mid-sections of the railway track between two stations.

The Railway Board chairman said at Jora Phatak the Jalandhar-Amritsar Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) passenger train which was running at its assigned speed, its loco-pilot applied brakes to slow it down.

At the time of the incident the gates of the manned level crossing were closed and the train was given the green signal.

When asked about the responsibility of the loco-pilot, Lohani said, “Our initial report suggest that the loco-pilot applied the brakes and the speed came down from 90 kmph to around 60-65 kmph. We are still looking at the seepdometer charts,” Lohani said.

The train driver has been detained at the Ludhiana railway station and questioned by the Punjab and Railway Police on Saturday.

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