Two weeks after refusing to conduct inquiries, Indian Railways on Friday said it would investigate the Amritsar train accident that claimed 62 lives.
The chief commissioner of railway safety, who has ordered a statutory inquiry into the matter, said initial evidence indicates that Railways was not responsible, PTI reported.
On October 19, a train ploughed through a crowd standing on the railway tracks at a Dussehra event held on a ground near the tracks in Amritsar. A second train coming from the opposite side ran over those who had jumped out of the way of the first train. The Railways had initially said the accident appeared to be a “case of trespassing”.
The investigation was initiated after Amritsar MP Gurjeet Singh Aujla made a request to Railways Minister Piyush Goyal. “The Ministry of Railways has considered this request and other facts, circumstances and legal provisions,” the railway safety commissioner, whose office is in Lucknow, said in a statement.
Navjot Kaur Sidhu’s statement
Meanwhile, Navjot Kaur Sidhu, former legislator and wife of Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, on Friday gave her statement to the officer investigating the matter. Her husband, who was also asked to record his statement, sent a written note in a sealed envelope through her.
Jalandhar Divisional Commissioner B Purushartha, who is conducting the magisterial inquiry, recorded the Congress leader’s statement. The statements of more than 51 victims, including their family members, have been recorded so far.
Navjot Kaur Sidhu told reporters that her husband could not be present to record his statements because of his “political engagements”, PTI reported. “At the time of accident, he was not in the city but was in Bengaluru,” she said. She refused to answer questions about claims that she had run away from the site of the accident. Earlier, she had rejected the allegations.
Navjot Singh Sidhu later held a press conference in Amritsar to justify his absence. “I wrote to him [Purushartha] that I was not in Punjab from October 16 to 20,” he told reporters, according to IANS. “So there are no inputs that can actually add to your proceedings.”
On October 25, Shiromani Akali Dal MLA Bikram Singh Majithia accompanied Lakhbir Singh, a man who was wounded in the accident, to the Mohkampaura police station and filed a complaint against Navjot Kaur Sidhu, as well as Congress councillor Vijay Madaan’s son Saurabh Madan, the Hindustan Times reported.
“There were inadequate chairs in the ground where the Dussehra ceremony was being organised due to which people were forced to stand on the railway tracks,” Lakhbir Singh had said in the complaint. “Navjot Kaur Sidhu reached the venue late. Had she turned up in time, the function would not have been delayed and the tragedy could have been averted. We didn’t know whether the organisers had taken permissions for the event or not.” He said Madan had delayed the programme for Kaur