TRAIN Mows Down Dusserah Crowd Killing 61 In Amritsar

STATE mourning was observed in Punjab on Saturday for the people who were killed by two trains while participation in Dusserah function in Amritsar. The fest was held near a railway track on Friday. It is said due to the noise created by fireworks,  an estimated 20,000 people watching   burning  of  dreaded  demon king Ravana   from the  railway track  could not hear or see the approaching  trains.  Offices and educational institutions remained shut. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who was scheduled to visit Israel, visited  the spot  and  empathised with the  affected families.There were at least 300 spectators at the Dhobi Ghat ground, about  2 km from the Amritsar station. Many of them stood on the tracks close to the Jaura Phatak crossing to get a better view and were taking videos of the burning Ravan as the first of the trains, 74643 Jalandhar-Amritsar DMU, ran them over. The second train, the 13006 Amritsar-Howrah Express, sped past seconds later and some of those who had jumped on the second set of tracks to escape the first were caught under it. Railway Board chairman Ashwani Lohani rushed to the spot while the state government announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 5 lakh as compensation to the next of kin of those who were killed. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh for the family of the dead and Rs 50,000 for the injured. He also directed officials to provide immediate assistance. The state government has also declared Saturday a day of mourning in the state.  Railway Board chairman Ashwani Lohani rushed to the spot while the state government announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 5 lakh as compensation to the next of kin of those who were killed. The Amritsar police said they had given permission for the Dussehra celebration at the Dhobi Ghat ground near Jaura Phatak crossing, but the organisers did not take the other required permission from the Municipal Corporation, the Health and the Fire Departments. Amritsar Police Commissioner S S Srivastava said: “The event was organised by Mithu Madan’s family.” Mithu’s mother, Vijay Madan, is a Congress councillor in the area. Amritsar Deputy Commissioner K S Sangha said that “police commissionerate could tell about the permission”, while Srivastava added, “Police had given permission for the event.” The ground where Ravan’s effigy was burnt is a Municipal Corporation ground. Amritsar Municipal Commissioner Sonali Giri told The Indian Express “There was no permission sought from MC and no permission was given from our side.” A thorough investigation will be conducted into the train accident and the probe will include how and why a Ravan effigy was allowed to be burnt by the railway tracks, Punjab CM Amarinder Singh said. The probe will be completed in four weeks, he added. The Health Department has issued instructions to the Civil Surgeon in Amritsar to ensure that private hospitals rise to the occasion after the government received reports that some private hospitals were refusing to admit accident victims. Republic TV citing official sources says no permission was given by the Railways to organise the function close to the railway track. Punjab Police officials said that the DMU (diesel multiple unit) driver had been detained at the Ludhiana railway station and was being questioned regarding the incident that took place. He reportedly said that he had no idea about the large crowd sitting on the track. Incidentally, Punjab Minister Navjot Sindhu represents the assembly constituency and his wife was the Chief Guest at the function reportedly organised by some state’s ruling  party activists.

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