Amritsar train accident: How Dussehra revelry turned into a tragedyhttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/amritsar-train-tragedy-deaths-toll-injured-railways-dussehra-5410685/

Amritsar train accident: How Dussehra revelry turned into a tragedy

Amritsar train accident: Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha Saturday ruled out the possibility of any punitive action against the driver of the train, underlining that there was no negligence on the part of the railways, and also advised people not to organise such events near tracks.

Amritsar train accident death toll
Amritsar train accident: Victims cremated at the Durgiana Temple Cremation ground in Amritsar. (Express Photo by Gurmeet Singh)

On ill-fated Friday evening, Dussehra revelry turned into a tragedy as nearly 60 were killed and several injured after two trains mowed down around 150 people who stood on the railway tracks watching the effigy of burning Ravana near Amritsar. A series of accusations, calls for probes, demands for apologies and announcements of compensations were reported as new updates kept surfacing on Saturday, providing detailed insights into the cause and magnitude of the tragedy.

READ | Eyewitnesses recall Dusshera horror

According to estimates, around 300 spectators were present at the Dhobi Ghat ground, which is almost a couple of kilometers away from the Amritsar railway station. While the Dussehra revelers stood on the ground, witnessing the symbolic victory of good over evil in the fall of Ravana’s effigy, train no. 74643 Jalandhar-Amritsar DMU ran over those, who chose to come on the tracks to get a better view of the fireworks. Before the survivors could grasp a sense of what had happened, a second train- Amritsar-Howrah Express sped past the railway tracks mowing down people who had jumped on the second set of tracks to escape the incoming disaster.

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Amritsar train accident death toll
The site of the railway accident near the venue of Dussehra festivities, at Joda Phatak in Amritsar. According to estimates, around 300 spectators were present at the Dhobi Ghat ground, which is almost a couple of kilometers away from the Amritsar railway station. (Photo: PTI)

58 of the 59 people killed in the train accident have been identified so far, officials said Saturday. The bodies of four other persons, who belonged to Uttar Pradesh, have been sent to their hometowns by the district administration.

READ | An endless night at Amritsar hospital — from the frantic search for loved ones to kagazi karwaai

Most of the people who attended the celebrations were migrant labourers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar who settled in Punjab for earning a livelihood, dabbling in small-time occupations like sanitary workers, wood polish workers, gardeners, painters among others.

Amritsar train accident death toll
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha Saturday ruled out the possibility of any punitive action against the driver of the train, underlining that there was no negligence on the part of the railways, and also advised people not to organise such events near tracks. (PTI Photo)

During his address to mediapersons, Punjab CM Amarinder Singh said that a compensation of Rs five lakh each for the families of the deceased has been announced by the state government. Besides this, the government would bear the cost of medical treatments of the injured admitted to different hospitals.

READ | At civil hospital, parents wait for autopsies of their children who left homes to ‘celebrate’

Talking about the horrifying incident, eyewitnesses told The Indian Express that every year they used to stand on railway tracks, watch firecrackers knowing well it was unsafe but nothing untoward ever happened like it did on Friday.

Amritsar train accident death toll
During his address to mediapersons, Punjab CM Amarinder Singh said that a compensation of Rs five lakh each for the families of the deceased has been announced by the state government. Besides this, the government would bear the cost of medical treatments of the injured admitted to different hospitals. (Express Photo by Simranjit Singh)

The fact that Congress leader Navjot Kaur Sidhu was present at the ceremony as the tragedy unfolded, has got the accident come under political crossfire. “(Navjot Kaur) Sidhu’s lie that she was not aware of the people standing on the railway tracks is exposed. She is repeatedly being told, according to new video evidence, that there are people on the tracks and even if the trains arrive, nothing will happen to them,” senior BJP leader Rajinder Mohan Singh Chinna said in a statement.

While Sidhu was quoted as saying Saturday that the gateman responsible for closing the railway barrier could have alerted the driver to slow down the train as several people were standing on the rail tracks. “Could he not see the train coming and the people standing on the railway track? He was there on the spot. He could have alerted the driver to slow down the train. People were just looking at Ravana’s effigy being burnt. They were not seeing that a train was coming,” Sidhu was quoted as saying by PTI.

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Amritsar train accident death toll
Most of the people who attended the celebrations were migrant labourers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar who settled in Punjab for earning a livelihood, dabbling in small-time occupations like sanitary workers, wood polish workers, gardeners, painters among others.

Meanwhile, Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha Saturday ruled out the possibility of any punitive action against the driver of the train, underlining that there was no negligence on the part of the railways, and also advised people not to organise such events near tracks. “The incident was not a railways’ fault. There was no lapse on our part and no action against the driver will be initiated. People should refrain from organising such events near tracks in future. I think if precaution had been taken, the accident could have been averted,” he told PTI.