Railways failed to take into account huge presence of Kanwarias who came to visit temple

Even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appealed for calm, Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge maintained that the “unfortunate incident” in Bihar that claimed the lives of 28 pilgrims was because of the failure of the train driver to sight the people who were passing the track on a curvature.

The Minister’s statement in the Rajya Sabha said two trains were stopped at the Dhamara Ghat Railway Station, giving precedence to the Rajyarani Express to pass. The passengers had got down from the stationary 55566 Dn Samastipur-Madhepura and 55533 Up Madhepura-Samastipur on the non-platform sides when the Rajyarani Express passed through the station. Seeing people on the track, the driver applied the brakes, but by the time the train came to a stop, it had run over several people.

It is clear from the statement that the railways had not taken into account the huge presence of Kanwarias intending to visit the temple located near the station on the last auspicious Monday of Sawan. Stopping two trains at the same time at the station and allowing another speeding train to pass seems to have proved fatal.

Mr. Kharge announced a compensation of Rs. 5 lakh to the bereaved families and Rs. 1 lakh to those injured. The government would bear their medical treatment.

The Minister has ordered an enquiry by the Commissioner of Railway Safety into the incident. He has also spoken to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on maintaining law and order to speed up relief operations and restore normal operation of trains.

Earlier in the day, however, Railway Board chairman Arunendra Kumar said people were run over when they sought to stop the train in their bid to board it.

The Prime Minister, expressing shock, directed the Railway Ministry to use “all available resources” to expedite the relief work.

The issue rocked the Rajya Sabha with LJP president Ram Vilas Paswan and RJD leader Ram Kripal Yadav raising the issue and alleging that the Bihar government failed to carry out relief and rescue operations.

They said the government failed to take precautionary measures to control the crowd despite being aware of the congregation of devotees there.