GR News Desk
New Delhi: Over 60 people were killed and 72 others injured when two speeding trains mowed down people celebrating Dussehra at Joda Phatak near Amritsar on Friday. The incident took place when Dussehra revelers were enjoying the burning of Ravana effigies while standing at the unmanned level crossing.
The accident spot was packed with over 300 people, barely 2 km from the Amritsar railway station. According to eyewitnesses, people failed to comprehend the incoming 74643 Jalandhar-Amritsar DMU in the noise of crackers. While many were mowed down by the DMU, seconds later many others who had jumped tracks were caught in the 13006 Amritsar-Howrah Express which sped past on the other track.
A state mourning has been declared in Punjab for today.
— Shibu Tripathi 🧢 (@imsktripathi) October 19, 2018
Here is everything you need to know
Massive rescue, relief mission underway
The state government immediately launched a major rescue and relief operation to save those injured and traffic on the line was shut down. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh directed Home Secretary, Health Secretary and ADGP Law and Order to immediately rush to Amritsar. Revenue Minister Sukhbinder Sarkaria was deputed to reach Amritsar to oversee rescue operations.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh expressing his condolences said, “I spoke to Home Secretary of Punjab and DGP of the state regarding the train accident in Amritsar. They are rushing to the spot. Centre is ready to provide all possible assistance to the state at this hour of grief.” Army too offered to helped in the rescue operation and dispatched several ambulances to the spot.
We will do everything possible to assist the injured. Have directed the district administration to leave no stone unturned to ensure the best possible treatment for them. pic.twitter.com/90ddA1XeZQ
— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) October 19, 2018
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday night set up a Crisis Management Group to monitor the relief and rehabilitation efforts. CM canceled his trip to Israel.
Centre, state announce compensation
Both the central and state government announced compensations for the next of kin of the deceased. Taking to Twitter, PM Narendra Modi announced a Rs 2 lakh compensation and said, “Extremely saddened by the train accident in Amritsar. The tragedy is heart-wrenching. My deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their loved ones and I pray that the injured recover quickly. Have asked officials to provide immediate assistance that is required.” CM Amarinder Singh announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for family members of the dead and free medical services for injured in government and private hospitals.
Extremely saddened by the train accident in Amritsar. The tragedy is heart-wrenching. My deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their loved ones and I pray that the injured recover quickly. Have asked officials to provide immediate assistance that is required.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 19, 2018
Major lapse of precaution, Inquiry ordered
The state government has ordered an inquiry into the incident as to how permission was given to burn effigies close to the unmanned level crossing. Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani said, “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 a main line. There is no speed restriction there.” Railway Minister Piyush Goyal who is in the US has cancelled his engagements and returning to India in the wake of the tragic incident.
May God give strength to the bereaved and injured. Railways is proving all possible assistance at the site.
I have cancelled all engagemnts in USA and immediately returning back to India.
— Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal) October 19, 2018
Navjot Singh Sidhu’s wife takes fire
According to eyewitnesses, Navjot Kaur Sidhu, wife of Tourism minister Navjot Singh Sidhu was the chief guest at the Dussehra event at Joda Phatak. BJP pinned the blame on Congress and asked how celebrations were allowed near a railway line. According to The Indian Express, the BJP in a statement said, “The most condemnable and inhuman behaviour is of Mrs Navjot Kaur Sidhu, who was present at the Dussehra festivities as chief guest at the time when the sad incident took place and instead of providing relief to the victims, Mrs Sidhu ran away from the incident site.”
Meanwhile, Sidhu urged to not indulge in politics at such time and said, “The effigy of Ravan was burnt and I had just left the site when the incident happened. Priority is to get the injured treated. Dussehra celebrations are held there every year. People who are doing politics over this incident should be ashamed,” ANI reported.