Amritsar tragedy: Railways’ responsibility should also be fixed

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No doubt natural calamities cannot be controlled, but accidents be it railways, roadways, airways or others can be minimized by taking precautionary measures by alert administration. However, mishaps, many of them avoidable, have become a routine affair in our country. Public discussion on them has descended into a shallow and unhelpful blame game. This time the tragedy struck Amritsar where Dasera rituals were being performed on October 19 as the train mowed down more than 60 people watching Ravan’s effigy going up in flames. As reports say the organisers got permission to hold the event, then why did the city administration fail? Why proper bandobust was not made and why people in hundreds were not prevented from gathering on the railway tracks. It was the joint responsibility of the organisers and state administration.  It was not a new event. It is organized every year at the same place. It is said the effigy was stuffed with fireworks and when they began bursting, the sound of the train and its whistles were not heard and the revellers could not vacate the tracks. They ran helter-skelter and were crushed by the moving train. It is a fact that fireworks are lit during many of our festivals and social occasions, but no precautionary measures are adopted. This results in horrible accidents more often than not.

While the main responsibility rested on the administration and the organisers who did not take any measure to keep the revellers away from the railway tracks, the railways should also take blame. The railways said they were not intimated about the event. It was up to the administration to bring the matter to the notice of the railways. However, the driver of the train must have noticed the crowd. He could have slowed down the train and allowed the people to run away from the tracks. The driver said he wanted to slow the train, but found that people were pelting stones at the coaches and that was why he did not apply the brakes. This statement seems to be incorrect. The driver must have been too late to notice the crowd and as the train crushed the people, he thought it safe to run away from the place. The fact that the driver did not see the tall effigy of the Ravana burning, at least from a few miles away, also poses a question. The railways blunt refusal to conduct any inquiry is an attempt to save its neck and put total blame on the Punjab government and the Congress CM Capt Amarinder Singh.

Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu was also targeted and an odd charge was levelled against his wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu that she was to preside over the meeting but she was too late and that became the reason of the accident. It is yet another senseless charge to defame the Punjab government. No one should ignore the lackadaisical attitude of the administration, but at the same time clean chit cannot be given to the railways.

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