Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha Saturday said no punitive action would be taken against the driver of the train that mowed down 59 people when it sped over a spillover of crowd celebrating Dussehra in Amritsar on Friday night. He said there was no negligence on the part of the national transporter and advised people not to hold such events near railway tracks.
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So far, the tragic accident toll has risen to 59. Of it, 39 bodies have been identified. And 57 others who suffered injuries are being treated in Amritsar hospital.
The railways claimed that it was not a fault since it was not informed about the Dussehra event that was held near the Amritsar Railway Station on the occasion on the fateful night.
“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 said.
The minister also said that drivers are given specific instructions on where to slow down the train.
“There was a curve. The driver couldn’t have seen it. What should we order an inquiry about? Trains travel in speed only,” said Sinha when asked if an inquiry would be ordered against the driver.
Ferozpur Divisional Railway Manager Vivek Kumar also said that the driver had been questioned but no lapse could be found at his end. He said that while the train was travelling at a speed of 91 km/hr but after spotting the crowd on the track, it slowed down to 68 km/hr before the first impact.
“People were trespassing the railway lines when the incident took place. Due to darkness and sound of firecrackers, the people could not hear the sound of train. The driver did not see the crowd earlier as there was a curve. The driver tried to apply brakes and minimize the speed to the train running at 90 Km/hour but it takes time to stop the train,” he said.
Railway Board Borad chairman Ashwani Lohani had said the accident took place at a railway 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. He said the gate man was 400 metres away at a level crossing. He also said that if the driver had applied emergency brakes, there could have been a bigger tragedy.
The train was running at its assigned speed and initial reports suggest that the driver applied brakes and the train slowed down, he said.
“There was no information and no permission sought from us. The (Dussehra) event took place at a place adjoining the railway land in private property,” Lohani said.
However, the statutory inquiry by the Commission of Railway Safety that works under the administrative control of the Civil Aviation Ministry will be carried out as per the norms, Sinha said.
(With PTI inputs)