At least 61 people died, and 72 were injured after a train ran over a crowd standing on a railway track watching the burning of the Ravan effigy at a Ram Leela function in Amritsar on Friday. The tragedy took place at the Joda Fatak area, where hundreds of Dussehra revelers had gathered up to watch the fireworks. The victims reportedly couldn’t hear or see the approaching train due to exploding crackers.
Meanwhile, the blame game has begun over who’d granted permission to organise the event. Both Indian Railways and Amritsar civic body have denied giving permission to the event. Indian Railways has said that it was a “clear case of trespassing” and no permission for the event had been given by the railways.
“We’re not kept in the loop and we provided no permission for the event. It is a clear case of trespassing and the local administration should take responsibility,” a senior railway official told Hindustan Times.
Amid questions being raised in some quarters about why the train did not stop despite such a large crowd being there, the official said, “There was so much smoke that the driver was unable to see anything and he was also negotiating a curve.”
The driver of the train who has been detained by Punjab police claimed that he was given a green signal and had no idea that hundreds of people are standing on the tracks, Times of India reported.
Union Minister of State (MoS) for Railways Manoj Sinha has asserted that Amritsar train accident was completely avoidable and the Railways was not at fault. Amritsar Municipal Corporation on Saturday said that no permission had been granted to hold Dussehra celebrations at ‘Dhobi ghat’ ground in Amritsar.
“Nobody was given the permission for organising the Dussehra event. Moreover, nobody had applied for the permission with the Amritsar Municipal Corporation,” Amritsar Municipal Corporation Commissioner Sonali Giri told PTI.
At the time of the tragic incident, at least 300 people were watching ‘Ravana dahan’ at the ground adjacent to the elevated rail tracks.
As the effigy was lit and the fireworks went off, a section of the crowd started retreating towards the tracks where a large number of people were already standing to watch the event, officials had said.