Amritsar train deaths: Probe blames negligence, trespass for tragedy

Amritsar: People gather at the site where a local train crushed at least 58 people and left 72 injured while watching the burning of a Ravana effigy from a railway track last night; in Amritsar on Oct 20, 2018. (Photo: IANS)

New Delhi (IANS): Almost a month after 60 people lost their lives, the probe by Chief Commissioner of Railway Safety (CCRS) into the Amritsar train tragedy on Vijaya Dashami day has blamed the "negligence" and "trespassing" of people standing near the railway tracks for the disaster.

"In his report, the CCRS S K Pathak has concluded that the reason for the accident is negligence of persons who trespassed on railway tracks," official sources said.

The CCRS has noted that there were around 50 policemen on duty for the Dussehra function near Joda Pathak in Amritsar where the burning of the effigies of Ravan and others was on. "Some of the policemen tried to move the crowd away from tracks but the crowd did not listen to them," they said quoting from the report.

The probe report found that the spot of the accident was not visible till the train was within 250 meters of the crowd of revellers due to a S-curve on the route. The incident took place at around 7 p.m. and there was smoke in the atmosphere due to fire-crackers and burning of Ravan's effigy. 

"Otherwise visibility on straight track with headlights on is 200 meters," the report said.

The CCRS also pointed out that the permissible maximum speed on the route was 100 kmph and at the time of the accident the train was running at a speed of 82 kmph when the loco-pilot of the DEMU saw the crowd and applied emergency brakes. 

"In trial, it was seen that braking distance of the DEMU (Diesel Engine Multiple Unit) at this speed is 389 meters for similar speed," the source said.

Pathak also reported that no information was given about the Dussehra event to the railways by the organisers or the local administration.

The Railway ministry had ordered a CCRS probe on November 2 after Amritsar MP Gurjeet Singh Aujla met Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on October 23 and demanded an investigation.

Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had already ordered a magisterial probe. The magisterial probe report on the tragedy was submitted to the Punjab government on Wednesday.

Pathak took the statements of numerous witnesses including those of Railway officials and the public. He also examined the technical aspects before preparing the report on the tragedy in which about 60 people were also injured when the DEMU train ran over the crowd that had gathered on the railway tracks near Joda Phatak in Amritsar on October 19 for watching the Dussehra proceedings.

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