Dussehra celebrations at the Joda Phatak crossing in Amritsar, Punjab took a devastating turn on Friday evening when a train plowed into the crowds sitting on the tracks to witness the burning of the Ravan effigy about 70 feet away. The death toll is over 60 till now and officials suspect the number of casualties may be as high as 150 people. And all the nation want is accountability, accountability and accountability.
The only way to chase accountability and ensure those responsible do not duck in the face of tragedy is to demand a response to the unanswered questions. Here are 10 unanswered questions:
- Minister of State in the Ministry of Railways Manoj Sinha says no permission for the event was sought from the Railways and no information was shared. Was a laggard attitude by the state government responsible for the dreadful train accident?
- How could a large scale Dussehra event with the presence of Navjot Kaur Sidhu, the wife of Congress Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu have taken place without permission unless there was tacit complicity by someone in authority?
- Congress Minister Sidhu’s wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu says “I had just left the site when the incident happened.” Shiromani Akali Dal’s BS Majithia claims “She runs away from the spot.” If she was present during the accident, why deny it? And why attempt to run away?
- The Northern Railways CPRO states “Operations Incharge at the accident site in Amritsar has told me that only one train was passing from the area.” If the train was moving as per schedule and there was a legitimate expectation that the train would pass by, why was no preemptive and preventive action taken?
- BS Majithia of the Shiromani Akali Dal claims to have a video that show how a man who was “Mr. and Mrs. Sidhu's right hand man” was present on stage. Did the Congress government allow an event of such a large proportion take place without any planning, communication and security because a Congress Minister’s right hand man was involved?
- Congress Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu is a Cabinet Minister and MLA from the Amritsar East constituency. His wife was the guest at the Dussehra event where lapse of safety measures led to a tragedy on Friday. Is this a convenient coincidence or is this a connection that merits a larger investigation?
- The train accident is undoubtedly a tragedy of massive proportions. 38 were confirmed dead, 58 people were injured with 20 in serious condition and this just at Civil Hospital in Amritsar. Have these people died because there was nudge nudge wink wink between certain Congress leaders and the event organiser?
- Videos show how fireworks drowned the sound of the arriving train. The Explosives Act, 1884 and Explosives Rules of 2008 govern the display and storage of firecrackers. Any attempt to follow these norms would have revealed the dangers of organising such an event near railway tracks. How did not the Punjab police, not the fire authorities and not the municipal bodies raise a red flag? Or were they all persuaded to look away?
- When in the immediate aftermath of the grievous train accident, the absence of floodlights led locals to use cameras and mobile phones to search for bodies, isn’t it clear that basic arrangements to secure the premises hadn’t been made? In absence of lights, was there any way for the driver of the train to have seen and anticipated that a crowd of hundreds was on the track?
- THE BASIC QUESTIONS: Shouldn't there have been planning to avoid the crisis? Was the local administration unaware that over 300 people were going to gather for Dussehra? Did they not spot the 20-30 feet high effigy of Ravan? Were they not aware that railway tracks existed? Or was it simply a case of state apathy?
READ: Amritsar Train Accident | From Unmanned Tracks To No Crowd Control, As Many As Six Obvious Oversights Emerge From The Tragic Incident