Amritsar Train Accident: Cong leader who arranged event didn’t inform railways, civic body

Chandigarh: Even as authorities pick up pieces after the devastating massacre during Dussehra celebrations in Amritsar that took 61 lives, reports state that Congress leader Saurabh Madaan, who organised the celebrations had taken police permission but not informed the railways.

According to a reports, Madaan claimed to met met DCP (Amrik Singh) Powar before organising the whole thing.

He however said he hadn’t approached the railway and said: “Our function had nothing to do with the railways. Whatever happened was an accident.

The railways was not intimated about a Dussehra event along the tracks that led to the deaths of at least 61 people in Amritsar, Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani said in a statement.

He said that the accident occurred at a stretch between two stations — Amritsar and Manawala, and not at a level crossing. “At midsections, trains run at their assigned speed and people are not expected to be on the tracks. At midsections, there is no railway staff posted. We have staff at level crossings whose job is to regulate traffic,” he said, explaining why the railways was not alerted about the congregation by its staff.

He said that the gateman was 400 metres away at a level crossing. He also said that if the driver had applied emergency brakes, there could have been a bigger tragedy.

He said that the train was running at its assigned speed and initial reports suggest that the driver applied brakes and the train slowed down.

“There was no information and no permission sought from us. The event took place at a place adjoining the railway land in private property,” he said.

Refusing to assign any blame, Lohani, who visited the spot at midnight, said that the national transporter has been carrying out campaigns exhorting people not to trespass. “We will take that forward,” he said.

At least 61 people were killed and 72 injured Friday evening after a crowd of Dussehra revellers that had spilled onto railway tracks while watching the burning of a Ravana effigy was run over by a train, officials said.

The train was coming from Jalandhar when the accident occurred at Joda Phatak near Amritsar, where at least 300 people were watching ‘Ravana dahan’ at a ground adjacent to the tracks.

Meanwhile, the Amritsar Municipal Corporation Saturday said no permission was granted to hold Dussehra celebrations at ‘Dhobi ghat’ ground here.

At least 61 people were killed and 72 injured Friday evening after a crowd of Dussehra revellers that had spilled onto railway tracks while watching burning of Ravana effigy was run over by a train near Joda Phatak here.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who visited Joda Phatak, the site of the tragedy, and hospitals, announced a magisterial probe and said 59 people were killed and 57 injured.

Officials earlier said 61 people were killed at the event, barely 50 metres from the railway track.

Except nine, most of the bodies have been identified, Singh told reporters. Most of those killed are migrant labourers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

An FIR was lodged against unknown persons, officials said as locals asserted that effigy burning had been going on at the spot for at least 20 years.

“Nobody was given the permission for organising the Dussehra event. Moreover, nobody had applied for the permission with the Amritsar Municipal Corporation,” Amritsar Municipal Corporation Commissioner Sonali Giri said.

She said the celebrations were held at the ‘Dhobi ghat’ ground here.

The commissioner said unlike last year, the event was held on a large scale on Friday evening.

“Last year, the scale of the function was not as big as it was witnessed on Friday evening, she said, adding there was also a small temple at the ground.

Navjot Kaur Sidhu, former MLA and wife of Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, was the chief guest of the event.

The event was reportedly organised by Saurabh Madan, husband of Congress Councillor Vijay Madan. Posters of Navjot Singh Sidhu, his wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu, councilor Saurbah Madan and his wife Vijay Madan were displayed at the event.

Opposition parties, including the Akali Dal, BJP and AAP have demanded strict action against those who gave permission for holding the event. They have also held the Congress-led Punjab government responsible for allowing the Dussehra celebrations near the railway track.

At the time of the tragic incident, at least 300 people were watching ‘Ravana dahan’ at the ground adjacent to the elevated rail tracks. As the effigy was lit and the fireworks went off, a section of the crowd started retreating towards the tracks where a large number of people were already standing to watch the event, officials had said.

Two trains arrived from the opposite direction at the same time giving little time to people to escape, they said.

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