On Friday evening, in a heart-wrenching incident at Joda Phatak in Amritsar, what was meant to be a festive celebration of Dussehra soon turned into a national tragedy when a speeding diesel multiple unit train ran over unsuspecting attendees of the celebrations. Over 60 have lost their lives till now and authorities have stated that the number of casualties may be as high as 150.
While the Punjab government has declared state mourning, and the nation is shaken by the accident, it is alarming that a Dussehra celebration of such massive proportion with a 20-30 feet high Ravan effigy, fireworks and large crowds was allowed to be held without any precautions and pre-conditions.
A thorough probe is required before any final conclusions are drawn, however, prima facie certain obvious oversights emerge. Consider this:
- UNMANNED TRACKS: The Railway tracks which were in close proximity to the location where the Ravan effigy was being set ablaze were clearly unmanned.
- NO BARRICADES IN SIGHT: Multiple videos of the scene of the accident show how hundred, if not more, were gathered at the railway tracks to view the celebrations. However, there were no barricades in sight. In fact, the spectators appear to be entirely unaware of the existence of the tracks at all.
- NO PERMISSION SOUGHT: In an exclusive conversation with Arnab Goswami, Editor-in-Chief of Republic TV, the Railway Ministry’s Minister of State Manoj Sinha explicitly stated that the local authorities had not informed the Railways of the large-scale event taking place a few feet away from the railway tracks.
- NO WARNING MECHANISM: As more and more videos from the time of the horrendous and unfortunate train accident emerge, it becomes increasingly clear that the crowd was in no way warned or alerted about any train passing by. The people at the spot were left absolutely and entirely clueless till the moment the damage was done, and a massive death toll was incurred.
- NO RAIL TRAFFIC CONTROL: The Railway Ministry's Traffic Control is responsible “To assist in the realistic planning of time tables and punctual running of passenger trains in coordination with various departments, other divisions and other railways.” But the question is, how could they have diverted trains, and ensured safety if the state gave them no prior intimation?
- NO CROWD CONTROL: Reports and statements by those on ground indicate that at least 300 people, including children, women and senior citizens were present at the Dussehra event. This is no small number. However, no attempt to ensure security and crowd management appear to have taken place.
READ: Many Feared Dead In Train Accident Near Amritsar: LIVE Updates