Other States

No action against driver, says MoS for Railways Manoj Sinha

People throng the railway track where the tragic train mishap took place at Joda Pathak in Amritsar on October 20, 2018.

People throng the railway track where the tragic train mishap took place at Joda Pathak in Amritsar on October 20, 2018.   | Photo Credit: AKHILESH KUMAR

Punjab CM orders magisterial inquiry into tragedy on tracks

The Railways on Saturday denied any negligence on its part in Friday’s tragedy when a train mowed down 59 Dasara revellers at Joda Phatak near Amritsar, even as Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh ordered a magisterial inquiry.

A crowd watching the burning of a Ravan effigy spilled on to the railway tracks and was hit by a train coming from Jalandhar to Amritsar. Seventy two persons were injured.

Precautions needed

“The incident was not the Railways’ fault. People should refrain from organising such events near tracks in future. I think if precautions had been taken, the accident could have been averted,” Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha said. Mr. Sinha said no action was being taken against the driver. “There was a curve. The driver couldn’t have seen the crowd,” he added.

“People trespassed on to the railway track to see the Dasara celebrations… they could not hear the repeated train engine whistles due to the sound of the [fire] crackers, which resulted in this unfortunate incident,” Deepak Kumar, spokesperson of the Northern Railways said in a press release.

Mr. Kumar said the manned level crossing, 340 metres ahead of the accident site, was closed for road traffic. “…there was about a 2.5 metre-high track wall between the railway track and the Ravan effigy burning site,” he said. No communication on the event was given to the Railways, he said, and as the site did not belong to it, no permission was sought for using it.

Not our fault: Railways

The Northern Railways spokesperson said only one train was involved in the accident. “Amritsar-Howrah Express (13006) passed the accident site about two minutes before the accident occurred. This was followed by the Jalandhar-Amritsar DMU train (74943).”

A Railways official said no inquiry will be conducted by the Commission of Railway Safety, that works under the administrative control of the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

Meanwhile Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said in Amritsar that he has asked the Jalandhar Divisional Commissioner to probe the accident “from all angles” and submit a report in four weeks.

Capt. Singh, who had come to review the situation on the ground and meet the injured, said the three-member Crisis Management Group, headed by Health Minister Brahm Mohindra, would camp in the city to monitor and assist in the relief operations as long as required.

Talking to journalists, he said action would be taken against those responsible for the tragedy once the inquiry report was ready.

Mourning till Monday

Mourning would continue in Amritsar district till Monday. The national flag would fly at half-mast and all educational institutions would remain closed during this period, he added.

Earlier in the day, Railway Board Chairman Ashwini Lohani said, “At mid-sections, trains run at their assigned speed and people are not expected to be on the tracks. At mid-sections, there is no railway staff posted. We have staff at level crossings whose job is to regulate traffic.” He said the train was running at its assigned speed and initial reports suggest that the driver applied brakes and the train slowed down.

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 3:28:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/no-action-against-driver-says-mos-for-railways-manoj-sinha/article25272434.ece

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