Amritsar Dussehra Tragedy: Probe blames railway gateman and organisers, Punjab CM orders action

Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has ordered stern action against all those found responsible for  the Amritsar train mishap, after the magisterial probe found the gateman of the railway crossing at Jaura Phatak and the organizers of the event accountable for various acts of omissions and commissions leading to the unfortunate tragedy. 

The magisterial inquiry into the incident, which claimed 61 lives on Dussehra day, was conducted by the Divisional Commissioner, Jalandhar B Purushartha on the orders of the Chief Minister.

The inquiry has revealed an alarming situation so far as regulation and supervision of an event at a public place/Government land was concerned. 

“Everyone concerned with organization, regulation and supervision of the event under inquiry committed omissions and commissions including dereliction of statutory duties”, it observed, adding, “it is true that such omissions/commissions/dereliction of duties have not been done for the first time (but) in this event it combined with the blunders committed on the part of key rail employees and a ripe situation for occurrence of this accident was created”. 

The comprehensive report submitted to the Government recently examined all the aspects related to the tragedy. It was based on interviews with all the people affected and various officials concerned, from the district administration and the railways. 

The inquiry report observed, while the spectators “committed the mistake” of watching this event from rail tracks, the organizers held this event without any permission and without undertaking required safety and security measures.

The report blamed the Police and the Municipal Corporation functionaries for their failure to enforce the law and showing unwanted generosity, while the key rail employees failed to take safety and security measures even after having full knowledge of presence of a large number of people on and around the rail tracks. 

The inquiry concluded, “Gateman of Jaura Phatak, Gate No. 27 Mr. Amit Singh has not only failed in discharging his statutory duties but also committed a blunder in not taking appropriate safety and security measures which could have easily prevented this accident.  He is one of those key Railway employees whose blunder has resulted into this accident.”

The inquiry report also blamed the gateman of another gate (no:26) for his failure. It said, “it is also evident that Gateman of Railways Level Crossing, Gate No. 26 Mr. Nirmal Singh also failed discharging his statutory duties by his late reaction in informing Gateman of Jaura Phatak, Gate No. 27.  He came to know about this gathering on Rail Tracks at around 5.30 p.m., but informed Gateman of Gate No. 27, Mr Amit Singh at around 6.40-6.45 p.m.  He did not inform the concerned Station Master and keep giving all right signals to approaching trains.  Therefore, he is also responsible for committing this blunder”.

The inquiry report said, the organisers were not having any approval/permission required for holding this event of Dussehra celebration including Ravan Dahan at Dhobi Ghat and they held the event in an illegal manner, compromising the safety and security of spectators’ life.

“It is also evident that the organisers conducted this event without taking adequate precautions/measures to ensure safety and security of the people gathered to watch Dussehra celebration and Ravan Dahan”, it added. 

Blaming the organisers for failure to inform the railways, the report said, “the organisers neither informed the Railways nor took any precautions and safety measures to stop people from watching the celebrations from Rail Tracks”. 

A simple information could have resulted into issuance of a caution order by the Railways for controlled and alerted movement of trains in this Rail section and other security measures which could have easily prevented this accident, it observed.  

The inquiry also made it clear that Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu, the wife of the Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who attended the function as a Chief Guest, had no role in organizing the event. 

The report said that had the organisers been sensitive to the safety and security of the people watching the Dussehra celebrations and taken the simple action of putting a view cutter of 10-12 feet height along the boundary wall separating the ground and Rail Tracks, the accident could have been prevented.

For want of visibility of the ground and ongoing function, people would not have stood on Rail Tracks.