A wave of grief and sorrow has emerged in the whole of the nation and abroad after over 60 people gathered to watch the burning of Ravana effigy, on Friday night, at Punjab’s Amritsar were mowed down by a speeding train which came just few seconds after a train passed from the opposite direction. Around 300 people from across Amritsar had gathered at Jaura Fatak area of Amritsar where an event of burning of Ravana effigy was organised. Navjyot Kaur Sidhu, wife of Punjab’s Cabinet Minister and former Cricket team player, Navjot Singh Siddhu, was also present at the venue as a chief guest and she has been accused of leaving the venue as soon as the news of around 60 people killed as a train passed over them, reached the stage where Navjyot Kaur Sidhu was present.
Navjyot Kaur Sidhu has, however, refuted the allegations and said that the event had over when she left and received a call within 15mins from her departure from the venue briefing her about the tragic incident. Navjyot Singh Siddhu has also tuned the same words of his wife and said that it is the time to help people and not to blame one another. “When I talked to my wife Navjyot Kaur Sidhu on Friday, she was in a hospital,” said the Culture Minister for Punjab, quoted PTI. He further went ahead to urge everyone to abstain from colouring the issue with politics. “The question is that the accident should not be given political shape. It is an accident. Do not make false allegations and do politics on this issue,” said Navjot Singh Siddhu to reporters. It is reported that majority of people either dead or injured in the incident are migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar who lived in colonies near the tracks. They are small time labourers who did sanitary work, wood polish work, gardening, paintings and such other work.
Who to blame?
Railways has shirk off it’s responsibility in the matter as the railways was not informed about the event and people’s presence on the tracks. While calling the gathering of people on the tracks as trespassing, railway board refused to hold any investigation in the matter as Railways do not stand responsible for the accident. “It would be wrong to say that railways is responsible for this accident. There are two manned level-crossing on that track, both were close. It is the main line. There is no speed restriction. People were watching Dussehra celebrations from railway tracks, they need to be more alert,” said Ashwani Lohani, Chairman, Railway Board, quoted TOI. The Minister of State (MoS) for Railways, Manoj Sinha, also ruled out any punitive action against the railway personnel. “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,” said Sinha, quoted PTI.
Though an inquiry in the case is assured by the Punjab’s Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh. He has ordered for a magisterial level inquiry in the case to book the culprits in the matter. A divisional commissioner of Jalandhar has been asked to supervise the inquiry and submit the report within 4 weeks. An eye witness present at the spot narrated the whole tragic incident to Indian Express. “I and Rakesh were inside the venue boundary when Raavan effigy was burnt but Dinesh (Brother of Rakesh), his wife, mother-in-law, sister-in-law and her children moved towards the tracks. Soon, there was chaos all over and all we could hear along with firecrackers were cries and shrills of people shouting for help. We did not hear a single horn sound or any alert sounded by approaching train,” said Rahul, a resident of a colony near the track, Indian Express quoted. He also said that they live in the colony near the tracks for decades now and every year Raavan Dahan take place at the same Dhobi Ghat ground and they gather around the track but such incident never happened before.
“Yes, we have been seeing this Mela near railway tracks for years but nothing untoward happened. We know it is unsafe to stand there but earlier whenever train use to approach, there was some alert or a loud horn and we used to move aside. On Friday, there was not a single horn or any alert, it just came running like a bullet and mowed down people. The train was speeding and crushed whoever came in its way. Why there was no warning like in the previous years?” questioned Rahul through Indian Express reporter.
The CM, Captain Amarinder Singh, has announced Ex-Gratia of INR 5 Lac to the kind of each deceased and that no-cost medical treatment will be provided to the injured admitted in public or private hospitals. He said that he has directed DC Amritsar to release INR 3 crore immediately for payment of ex-gratia to the kin of the deceased. In addition, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also announced Ex-Gratia of INR 2 Lac to kin of each deceased in the incident.
(With inputs from PTI, ANI, TOI & Indian Express)