Hours after 60 people were crushed to death by a train while watching the burning of a Ravana effigy here, the Railways on Saturday said it was not responsible for the tragedy. Northern Railways spokesperson Deepak Kumar said in a statement that the event was organised in an area which does not belong to the railways.
It also said that neither the area administration nor the organisers informed it about any Dusshera ceremony at the spot. “Therefore granting permission from the Railway’s does not arise,” he added. No information about the event was given to the railway authorities by the civil administration.”
He said at the time of the incident on Friday evening the gates of the manned level crossing were closed. A senior Railway Ministry official, however, admitted that the loco-pilots of the Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) Jalandhar-Amritsar Passenger train did not apply emergency brakes.
“He informed the station master at Amritsar about the train hitting the crowd immediately after the accident,” he said. He told the Amritsar official that the incident happened some 340 metres from an interlocked level crossing.
The official agreed that the gateman should have communicated to the nearest station about the assembly of a large crowd near the railway crossing that had spilled over on to the tracks. The station master should have been informed and he should have alerted the loco-pilots.
On Friday, a 700 strong crowd was watching a huge Ravana effigy go up in flames amid exploding crackers when on the Joda Phatak tracks near Dhobi Ghat the Jalandhar-Amritsar DMU passenger train heading to Hoshiarpur from Amritsar came hurtling down around 7 p.m.
In just 10-15 seconds it left behind a heap of crushed and dismembered bodies. Doctors at the Civil Hospital said that the death toll could rise as some of the injured were critical. Many killed were migrants from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
The Punjab government has declared state mourning on Saturday and all offices and educational institutions would remain closed, an official spokesperson said, adding that a probe has been ordered.
Update at 21:20PM: Indian Railway Minister Piyush Goyal has said that, he has cancelled all engagement in United State and is returning to India.
May God give strength to the bereaved and injured. Railways is proving all possible assistance at the site.
I have cancelled all engagemnts in USA and immediately returning back to India.
— Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal) October 19, 2018
Update at 19:35 PM: Meanwhile, Sidhu told CNN-News 18: “You will soon get all videos. I have records of all announcements. You’ll very soon get the video [footage that shows] that there was an announcement from the stage not to go there. The investigation has to be logical, ethical and fair”
Update at 19:30PM: Shiromani Akali Dal President, Sukhbir Singh Badal told CNN-News 18: “The present government is calling it a natural disaster instead of setting an example. This is not a natural disaster; this is massacre. No FIR is being registered on victims’ statement. An inquiry should happen out of Punjab under a high court.”
“This is a clear-cut cover-up operation. Mrs. Sidhu and Sidhu sahab should be part of the FIR. Fresh FIR should be registered on the statement of victims. Statement of victims not being taken but statement of police is being taken so that it can be managed. There should be no politics… Guilty should not be spared,” he added.
Update at 18:00PM: “The incident is tragic. We have learnt that some of the deceased belong to Bihar. Our condolences to all those who have lost their lives,” Kumar, who had served as railway minister under PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, told media reporters today. A high level of alertness is required while holding any public function in the vicinity of a railway line, the chief minister said. “We do not know whether the Railways were informed in advance about the Dussehra programme. Whoever organizes events near tracks need to exercise great caution. The authorities, too, should take safety aspects into consideration before granting permission,” he said to Media.
Update at 17:55PM: Significantly, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has asked the home secretary to issue an immediate advisory for sale and storage of crackers during Diwali to ensure strict adherence to the safety rules and guidelines for the same. Taking serious note of the Amritsar train tragedy, the CM made it clear that no laxity would be tolerated in these matters. While the culpability in Friday’s tragic incident would be fixed, it was imperative to ensure that such an incident was not repeated.
Update at 16:35PM:
Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh has directed Home Secretary NS Kalsi to prepare detailed guidelines for permission to hold religious&social congregations,in order to prevent the kind of tragedy that struck Amritsar during Dussehra celebrations yesterday. #AmritsarTrainAccident pic.twitter.com/MZWHUQnHn2
— ANI (@ANI) October 20, 2018
Update at 16:32PM: Shivala Railway Crossing was vandalised by unidentified persons last night after the Amritsar train accident, reports ANI. Jaspal Singh, Assistant Sub-Inspector, Government Railway Police, says, “Window panes were vandalised last night. We found it today. Cabin man was also thrashed.”
Update at 15:08PM: There were vacant seats at Dhobi Ghat ground. Ravan was tied securely & there were no chances of it falling down & creating chaos. There was no stampede. Announcements were made 4-5 times asking people to come inside Dhobi Ghat ground: Navjot Kaur Sidhu on #AmritsarTrainTragedy
Update at 14:18PM:
#AmritsarTrainAccident: Dussehra committee had written a letter (pic 1) to police seeking security arrangements for Dussehra celebrations at Dhobi Ghat, Golden Avenue in Amritsar. Assistant Sub-Inspector Daljeet Singh reverted (pic 2) that police have no objections in this regard pic.twitter.com/cu7QXbXZV7
— ANI (@ANI) October 20, 2018
Update at 14:15 PM: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh was accompanied by Health Minister Brahm Mohindra, Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, Education Minister O P Soni, Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar, among others.
Update at 14:00 PM: During his address to the media persons, the Chief Minister has said a compensation of Rs five lakh each for the families of the deceased had already been announced by the state government. Besides, the government would bear the cost of medical treatments of the injured admitted to different hospitals.
Update at 13:47 PM: As many as 37 trains were cancelled and 16 diverted today. Providing details to media, the Indian Railways said 10 mail/express trains and 27 passenger trains were cancelled. While 16 trains were diverted and reached their destination through a different route, 18 trains were short terminated, Northern Railways spokesperson Deepak Kumar said. The route between Jalandhar and Amritsar was suspended, he said. The railways maintained that it had no information about the Dussehra function held near the tracks.
Update at 13:20 PM: Chief Minister Amarinder Singh visits Guru Nanak Dev Hospital.
Reached Guru Nanak Dev Hospital and met with the patients admitted here. https://t.co/u2JYUQqwfZ
— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) October 20, 2018
Update at 13:20 PM: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also condoled the accident. “My thoughts are with everyone who has lost a loved one in the tragic train crash in Amritsar, India. Canadians are keeping you in our hearts tonight & wishing all those injured a full recovery,” Trudeau said in a tweet. In short, United Nation chief Guterres, Canadian PM Trudeau condole Amritsar train accident.
Update at 12:45 PM: While addressing the media, CM Singh said, “It is necessary for us to hold an enquiry into the incident. We have ordered a magisterial enquiry and have sought a report within four weeks. Let the railways continue with their probe, we shall conduct one of our own.”
Update at 12:32PM: Punjab Chief Minister orders immediate release of Rs 3 crore, After meeting the families of the victims, Punjab CM Amarinder Singh ordered an immediate release of Rs three crore to the Amritsar district collectorate for payment of compensation to the family of the deceased. Complying with the directions, the Chief Minister’s Office has issued RTGS (Real Time Gross Settlement) instructions to the bank concerned.
Update at 11:39 am: Russian President Vladimir Putin also offered his condolences to President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Amritsar train accident. “I offer my deepest sympathies over the tragic consequences of an accident on railways in Punjab. I ask to convey my words of sympathy and support to families and friends of killed people and to wish soonest recovery to those injured,” he said.
Update at 11:22 am: Punjab CM Amarinder Singh has arrived in Amritsar to take stock of the situation. “Was briefed by the district officials and the crises management team about the #AmritsarTrainAccident and the relief operations on arrival at Amritsar airport. Going on to visit the injured in various hospital,” he tweeted.
Update at 11:16 am: Expressing “deep shock and grief” over the train accident, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar in a statement on Friday conveyed his condolences to the bereaved families. “I am shocked to hear about the tragic rail accident in Amritsar which claimed, according to reports received, several lives. My heart goes out to the bereaved families. I express my condolences to the families who lost their near and dear ones and wish the injured speedy recovery,” the statement read.
Update at 10:12 am: 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.
Update at 09:55 am: Railways was not intimated about Dussehra event near tracks, says Lohani. 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. (PTI).
Update at 7:30 am, October 20, 2018: Its a criminal intimidation. High level judicial enquiry should be done. The should provide maximum monetary help. The state govt has a double face. They don’t have money for every good thing. But for buying vehicles and wasting money in lavish things, they have all the money in the world: Daljeet Cheema (SAD).
Update at 9:53 am: Punjab minister and Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu has accepted there was ‘negligence’, though, denied any intentional role behind the tragic train accident.
Update at 9:41 am: GRP registers FIR in the rail accident case. Case registered under section 304 A, 304, 337, 338 of the IPC. Case registered against unknown persons.
Update at 9:03 am: Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh leaves from Delhi for Amritsar.
Update at 8:53 am: 8 trains have been canceled, 5 trains diverted, 10 trains short-terminated and 5 trains short-originated on Saturday following the train accident between Amritsar & Manawala on Friday.
Update at 8:39 am: This is not a time to point fingers on anyone, not a point to play politics. People raised questions on my wife but I would like to say we can’t stop people to raise questions but I am urging don’t politicise it. That incident was not motivated, there was a negligence: Navjot Singh Sidhu.
It was a sad and an unfortunate incident. It is necessary to understand that it was an accident. There has been negligence but it was never intentional or motivated: Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu at Civil Hospital on #AmritsarTrainAccident pic.twitter.com/qIvQkWF1m5
— ANI (@ANI) October 20, 2018
Update at 8:37 am: These are my people. I am with them. I accept that there was negligence, but that was not motivated: Navjot Singh Sidhu.
Update at 8:35 am: We have to believe that was an accident. This is a negligence but nobody did this intentionally. Nobody should do politics on this right now: Navjot Singh Sidhu.
Update at 8:32 am: It was a tragic incident. I am upset with this incident. I had a word with victim family. We are with the family: Navjot Singh Sidhu.
Video clips posted on the social media showed some people who had apparently seen the approaching train trying to run away as train came mowing down all on its path. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal who was in the US, cancelled all his engagements and was set to return.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh announced Rs 5 lakh compensation each to the kin of the deceased and cancelled his proposed Israel visit to rush back to Amritsar.
The Chief Minister would visit the accident spot on Saturday later. President ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi condoled the deaths on Twitter late on Friday. The Prime Minister also announced Rs 2 lakh compensation each to the families of the dead and Rs 50,000 each to the injured.