Amritsar train tragedy: Railways deny responsibility, man who played Ravan dead

Dalbir Singh, the man who played Ravana died in the Amritsar train accident. Mother appeals to govt to give daughter-in-law job, while railway authorities deny responsibility for accident

PTI Photo
PTI Photo

NH Web Desk

In a tragic turn of events, the man who was playing the role of the demon king Ravana at a Ramlila event, was mowed down by the Jalandhar-Amritsar DMU passenger train heading to Hoshiarpur from Amritsar on Friday, October 19.

Dalbir Singh is survived by his mother, wife and an infant child. His mother has appealed to the Amarinder Singh government to provide a job to Singh’s widow. “I urge the government to provide a job to my daughter-in law. She also has an 8-month old baby.”

On Friday, October 19, a 700 strong crowd was watching a huge Ravana effigy go up in flames amid exploding crackers when on the Joda Phatak tracks near Dhobi Ghat the Jalandhar-Amritsar DMU passenger train heading to Hoshiarpur from Amritsar came hurtling down around 7pm.

In just 10-15 seconds it left behind a heap of crushed and dismembered bodies.

Hours after 60 people were crushed to death by a train while watching the burning of a Ravana effigy, the Railways said it was not responsible for the tragedy.

The role of train driver, railway officials and local authorities, who gave permission for holding of the event close to the railway tracks, is being probed, police officials said.

Northern Railways spokesperson Deepak Kumar said in a statement that the event was organised in an area which does not belong to the railways.

It also said that neither the area administration nor the organisers informed it about any Dussehra ceremony at the spot.

"Therefore granting permission from the Railway's does not arise," he added. No information about the event was given to the railway authorities by the civil administration."

He said at the time of the incident on Friday evening the gates of the manned level crossing were closed.

A senior Railway Ministry official, however, admitted that the loco-pilots of the Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) Jalandhar-Amritsar Passenger train did not apply emergency brakes.

"He informed the station master at Amritsar about the train hitting the crowd immediately after the accident," he said. He told the Amritsar official that the incident happened some 340 metres from an interlocked level crossing.

The official agreed that the gateman should have communicated to the nearest station about the assembly of a large crowd near the railway crossing that had spilled over onto the tracks.

The station master should have been informed and he should have alerted the loco-pilots.

Railway authorities defended themselves saying that they had not been informed about the Dussehra event at that spot and the local police did not prevent the people from coming on the live and busy railway tracks.

Doctors at the Civil Hospital said that the death toll could rise as some of the injured were critical. Many killed were migrants from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

The Punjab government has declared state mourning on Saturday and all offices and educational institutions would remain closed, an official spokesperson said, adding that a probe has been ordered.

Video clips posted on the social media showed some people who had apparently seen the approaching train trying to run away as train came mowing down all on its path.

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal who was in the US, cancelled all his engagements and was set to return.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh announced ₹5 lakh compensation each to the kin of the deceased and cancelled his proposed Israel visit to rush back to Amritsar.

The Chief Minister would visit the accident spot on Saturday later.

The Prime Minister also announced ₹2 lakh compensation each to the families of the dead and ₹50,000 each to the injured.

The Punjab and Railway Police questioned the driver of the train. 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 on Friday night at the Jora Phatak near Dhobi Ghat within Amritsar city.

Sources said that the driver claimed that he was given green signal and all clear and had no idea that hundreds of people were standing on the tracks when the train crossed the area.

No action has so far been initiated against the organisers, who are leaders of the ruling Congress in Punjab, of the Dussehra event. Police sources said that the organisers had gone underground.

Union Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha visited the accident spot late on Friday night. Sinha said that the incident was being probed and that the tragedy was unfortunate.

(with inputs from agencies)

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Published: 20 Oct 2018, 11:45 AM