Sunday, 16 December, 2018

India train disaster families protest amid anger over safety

The body of a victim of a train accident lies covered in cloth on a railway track in Amritsar India Friday Oct. 19 The body of a victim of a train accident lies covered in cloth on a railway track in Amritsar India Friday Oct. 19
Jeannette Daniel | 21 October, 2018, 18:12

Fifty nine people were killed after a crowd, which had gathered to watch the burning of a Ravana effigy, spilled over to the railway tracks and were mowed down by two speeding trains.

The Punjab police on Sunday fought running battles with people who had blocked rail tracks at Amritsar demanding action against organizers of the Dusshera committee following Friday's accident that claimed 61 lives. "He informed the station master at Amritsar about the train hitting the crowd immediately after the accident", he said. "At midsections, trains run at their assigned speed and people are not expected to be on the tracks".

On Saturday, after visiting the accident site and the hospitals where the injured were admitted, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had said 59 people were killed and 57 injured. "There was no notice given to the railways", he told reporters as he visited the site early on Saturday, surrounded by officials and police. Dussehra celebrations are held there every year. "The tragic incident could have been averted, had Navjot Kaur Sidhu turned up at the venue on time and had the function not been delayed", said Deepak who works as a painter to PTI.

The Amritsar Municipal Corporation distanced itself from the tragedy. The Railways, however, said that the tragedy was a case of trespassing and not a railway accident and ruled out a probe by the Commissioner Railway Safety.

Saurabh Mittoo Madan, the organiser of the Ram Leela which drew the revellers on Friday night, had sought permission from the police for events staged from October 15 to October 19; But not from the city administration. Mr. Sinha said no action was being taken against the driver. The organisers had alerted the police that thousands of people would gather at the site and they didn't want to cause hurdles or stop the movement of traffic.

Navjot Kaur Sidhu, wife of Punjab minister of Tourism, Cultural Affairs comes out of a hospital after enquiring about the well being of train accident victims.

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A local branch of the India National Congress Party had organized the event at a clearing near the railway tracks on the outskirts of Amritsar.

"As per initial reports, most of deceased were migrant workers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and were working in the industrial area to earn their livelihood", the official said. Priority is to get the injured treated. "People who are doing politics over it should be ashamed", they added.

"I met DCP (Amrik Singh) Powar before organising the whole thing", Madaan told ThePrint, adding that there were at least 40 policemen on duty at the spot near Jora Phatak Friday evening when the horrific tragedy took place.

As the effigy was lit and the fireworks started at the religious function, a section of the crowd started retreating toward railroad tracks while watching the event.

The protesters raised slogans against the district administration and vent their ire against the railways for not slowing down the train.

"Fifty-nine people have been killed and 57 were injured in the incident".

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