The Director General of Police in Punjab said on Sunday that the train accident in Amritsar on Friday happened due to negligence, PTI reported. Suresh Arora said Additional Director General of Police (Railways) Iqbal Preet Singh Sahota will conduct an inquiry to fix accountability.
On Friday, two speeding trains drove through a crowd of people celebrating Dussehra at a ground near the railway tracks. Around 300 people had gathered to watch the burning of an effigy of Ravana. The toll from the incident rose to 62 on Sunday after a person died of their injuries.
Akali Dal wants Sidhu to quit
The Shiromani Akali Dal core committee on Sunday demanded that Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu – the MLA of the Amritsar East constituency – be sacked, and that a case of murder be filed against his wife who was at the event where the accident took place. Navjot Kaur Sidhu claimed she had left the venue before the trains drove into the crowd. However, Opposition parties allege she left soon after the tragedy occurred.
Both Sidhu and his wife have blamed the railways for the accident. However, Indian Railways has said that there was no lapse on its part. “People should refrain from organising such events near tracks in future,” Union Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha had said on Saturday. “I think if precaution had been taken, the accident could have been averted.”
Railway Board chairman Ashwani Lohani said it was not a “railway accident” but a case of trespassing on rail tracks.
Organiser defends himself
Saurabh Madan Mithu, who had organised the event, released a video statement on Monday, claiming that he had taken all permissions, and had alerted the crowd “at least 10 times to not stand on the tracks”, ANI reported. He and his father, Congress councillor Vijay Madan, have been missing since the incident.
On Friday, the Amritsar Police had said they had given permission for the celebrations at the Dhobi Ghat ground. The organisers, however, did not take permission from the municipal corporation, and the health and fire departments, reports said.
Police have not initiated any action against the Madans. “The accident took place on the railway track which is under the jurisdiction of GRP. We cannot do anything,” said Amritsar Police Commissioner SS Srivastava.
Meanwhile, a petition was filed before the Punjab and Haryana High Court to set up an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation or a Special Investigation Team to look into the accident, ANI reported.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh proceeded with his visit to Israel on Sunday after he was “completely satisfied with the relief and rehabilitation measures being carried out”, IANS reported. He had postponed his visit after the incident.
NHRC issues notice
The National Human Rights Commission issued notices to the Punjab government, Railway Board Chairperson Ashwani Lohani and the Union Ministry of Railways, asking them to submit a detailed report on the accident within four weeks.
“The Commission has observed that while it cannot be said to be a sane act by people to sit on the railway tracks, at the same time, the negligence on the part of the district authorities is apparent behind this bizarre and horrific incident,” the notice read. “It seems that the local authorities and the organisers did not properly manage the crowd gathered to watch the Dussehra celebrations. It was the responsibility of the state to provide proper safety and protection to the citizens during the event.
The NHRC added that if it is true that the railways were not informed about the ongoing celebrations, it indicates a “highly negligent and reckless attitude of the authorities responsible”.