Amritsar Tragedy: Dussehra event was held without permission, organisers showed gross neglect, says state probe

The probe says the organisers did not take any safety precautions, they had not informed the railways and also held the event without any official permission.

Dussehra this year was marred by a tragic train accident in Amritsar where 60 people were killed. Chief Minister of Punjab Amarinder Singh had ordered a magisterial probe into the matter to investigate the circumstances which led to this incident.

A Press Release by Chief Minister Office on Thursday revealed a big lack of regulation and supervision, that were noted by the inquiry headed by Divisional Commissioner of Jalandhar, B Purushartha.

The magisterial probe has reported that the gateman of the railway crossing and the organisers of the event were accountable for various acts of negligence, leading to the accident. The probe said that accident could have been averted if police and the municipal corporation functionaries, had cleared rail tracks from spectators.

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The probe report has pointed out that the organisers of the event, including councillor’s Vijay Madan’s son Mithu Madan, who is a close aide of the Navjot Sidhu, did not undertake proper safety measures and showed extreme negligence while managing crowd.

It was earlier reported that the event was organized by a local Congress politician, and had invited Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu’s wife Navjot Kaur as the chief guest. Subsequently, a video had surfaced that showcased the level of negligence that was undertaken by organizers.

“Madam, look here. These people don’t care about standing on tracks,” the event organizer was heard saying in the video. “Even if 500 trains pass by, over 5000 people will be standing on the tracks for you,” he was seen saying, apparently addressing the Navjot Kaur.

Media reports had also claimed that Navjot Kaur had fled from the scene after the mishap. She had denied the reports and has stated that she had left 15 minutes prior and had even stated that the organisers and herself cannot be blamed because neither had they made the people sit on tracks nor had they made the train mow them down. Navjot Kaur had also indirectly blamed the railways saying that the train did not slow down.

Navjot Singh Sidhu had labelled the accident as  ‘Parmatma ka Prakop’ (wrath of the almighty).

However, these allegations on Railways were rubbished by the probe of Chief Commissioner of Railway Safety (CCRS), which said that error was committed by the public near the railway line.  It also added that the permissible speed limit in the area was 100kmph and train was running at 82kmph. The driver of the locomotive did attempt to apply brakes but the braking distance of the train was found to be 389 meters and braking was not possible. The report also held that the district administration and the organisers should have given prior details about the event to the railways.

The magisterial probe has backed the findings of CCRS that spectators had committed a big mistake by standing on tracks. It also slammed organizers for turning a blind eye towards safety measures. The probe said that Navjot Kaur was not a part of organizers, but the organisers had put the lives of people at risk by failing to take precautionary measures.

“While the spectators committed the mistake of watching this event from rail tracks, the organisers held this event without any permission and without undertaking required safety and security measures,” the report observed.

The probe also noticed that organizers failed to put a view cutter of 10-12 feet height separating Rail Tracks from Ground. It could have helped in preventing spectators from standing on tracks.

A 300-page report of magisterial probe into the accident was submitted to the Punjab home secretary recently. CM Amarinder Singh has promised a stern action against people accused of negligence.

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