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Amritsar train tragedy: Probe report holds railway gateman, organisers of Dussehra event responsible  2 Months ago

Source:   Times Of India  

CHANDIGARH: A magisterial probe into the Amritsar train tragedy in which around 60 people died, has held the gateman at a nearby railway crossing and the organisers of the Dussehra event responsible for "various acts of omissions and commissions", leading to the incident.

The probe report, however, gave a "clean chit" to Navjot Kaur Sidhu, wife of Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who was the chief guest at the Dussehra event, saying "she had no role in organising the event".

Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh Thursday evening ordered stern action against all those found responsible for the Amritsar train tragedy.

The report observed that the spectators "committed the mistake" of watching the Dussehra event while standing on railway tracks.

The magisterial inquiry into the incident, which claimed around 60 lives on Dussehra, was conducted by Jalandhar Divisional Commissioner B Purushartha, who was appointed as the special executive magistrate.

The crowd was watching the burning of a Ravana effigy near Joda Phatak on October 19 when they were mowed down by a passing train.

A 300-page report of magisterial probe into the accident was submitted to the Punjab home secretary last month.

"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.

It blamed police and functionaries of the municipal corporation for their failure to enforce the law and showing unwanted generosity, while the key rail employees failed to take safety and security measures even after having full knowledge of presence of a large number of people on and around the rail tracks.

"Gateman of Jaura Phatak (gate no. 27) Amit Singh has not only failed in discharging his statutory duties but also committed a blunder in not taking appropriate safety and security measures which could have easily prevented this accident. He is one of those key railway employees whose blunder has resulted into this accident," the report said.

The inquiry report also blamed the gateman of another gate (no. 26) for his "failure".

"It is also evident that gateman of railways level crossing (gate no. 26) Nirmal Singh also failed in discharging his statutory duties by his late reaction in informing the gateman of Jaura Phatak (gate no. 27). He came to know about this gathering on rail tracks at around 5.30 pm, but informed the gateman of Jaura Phatak (gate no. 27) at around 6.40-6.45 pm," it said.

He did not inform the station master concerned and keep giving green signals to approaching trains, the report said.

The report indicted Saurabh Mithu Madan, the son of a Congress councillor, who had organised the event.

"The organisers were not having any approval/permission required for holding this event of Dussehra celebration, including Ravan Dahan, at Dhobi Ghat and they held the event in an illegal manner, compromising the safety and security of spectators' life," the report said.

"It is also evident that the organisers conducted this event without taking adequate precautions/measures to ensure safety and security of the people gathered to watch Dussehra celebration and Ravan Dahan," the probe report said.

Blaming the organisers for failing to inform the Railways, the report said, "The organisers neither informed the Railways nor took any precautions and safety measures to stop people from watching the celebrations from rail tracks."

The inquiry report also made it clear that Navjot Kaur Sidhu, who attended the function as a Chief Guest, had no role in organising the event.

"Had the organisers been sensitive to the safety and security of the people watching the Dussehra celebrations and taken the simple action of putting a view cutter of 10-12 feet height along the boundary wall separating the ground and rail tracks, the accident could have been prevented," the report said.

The statements of over 150 people, including railway officials and Navjot Kaur Sidhu, were recorded by Purushartha, while Navjot Singh Sidhu, who had questioned the Railways for giving clean chit to loco-pilot of the train, had submitted his statement in writing.

Meanwhile, former MLA Navjot Kaur Sidhu said they did not "influence" the inquiry into the Amritsar train tragedy in any manner.

"We would have been wrong had we tried to influence the inquiry in any manner," she said, adding that there was no effort whatsoever on her and his husband part to try to "mould or change the facts" of inquiry.

Her statement came after the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) condemned the "clean chit" given to Sidhu and his wife in the Amritsar train tragedy.

The SAD alleged that the inquiry commission was "tailor made to save" the couple and it had "done its job accordingly".
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