Indian railways
Labourers repair railway tracks at Amritsar station | Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty Images
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As many as 61 people were killed in the Amritsar train tragedy this October, when they were mowed down while watching Ravan dahan on Dussehra.

Chandigarh: A magisterial probe has held railway employees responsible for the Dussehra tragedy in Amritsar that saw a speeding train mow down 61 people gathered on the tracks to watch Ravan dahan, which was being held in an adjacent open field.

The organisers of the event have been blamed too.

Conducted by Jalandhar divisional commissioner B. Purushartha, the inquiry had been ordered by Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh.

A fortnight ago, an investigation by the railways had given a clean chit to its employees. The inquiry report issued by the chief commissioner of railway safety had concluded that the accident was an “error in working by public near railway line”.

As the findings of the magisterial probe were released, the chief minister’s office said in a note that Singh had ordered stern action against all those found responsible for the Amritsar train mishap.

Also read: Public anger mounting over Amritsar train tragedy as authorities play blame game

A series of mistakes

The magisterial probe held that the tragedy was the result of various acts of “omission and commission” by the gateman manning the railway crossing at Jaura Phatak and the organisers of the event.

“Everyone concerned with the organisation, regulation and supervision of the event under inquiry committed omissions and commissions, including dereliction of statutory duties,” the report observed.

“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,” it added.

“Key rail employees”, it said, failed to undertake safety and security measures despite being aware of the heavy crowd gathered on and around the rail tracks.

“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,” the report said, adding, “He is one of those key railway employees whose blunder has resulted in this accident.”

Blame was also attributed to the railway employee manning another gate nearby.

“It is also evident that … Gate No. 26 [gateman] Mr Nirmal Singh also failed in discharging his statutory duties by his late reaction in informing [the] gateman of Jaura Phatak, Gate No. 27,” the report read.

“He came to know about this gathering on rail tracks around 5.30 pm, but informed… Mr Amit Singh at around 6.40-6.45 pm,” it added.

“He did not inform the concerned station master and kept giving all [the] right signals to approaching trains,” it said.

While the spectators “committed the mistake” of watching the event from rail tracks, the report noted that the organisers had held the Dussehra event without taking permission and implementing the requisite safety and security measures.

Also read: Navjot Kaur Sidhu given ‘clean chit’ in probe into Amritsar train tragedy

Dr Sidhu absolved

“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.

“The organisers neither informed the railways nor took any precautions and safety measures to stop people from watching the celebrations from rail tracks,” the report noted.

Informing the railways could have led to the issuance of a caution order for controlled and alert movement of trains in the given area, among other security measures that could have easily prevented this accident, it observed.

Had the organisers performed the “simple action” of installing a 10-12-ft-high view cutter along the boundary wall to hide the view from the railway tracks, the accident may not have happened.

The report also blamed police and municipal corporation functionaries for their failure to enforce the law, and showing unwanted generosity.

The inquiry made it clear that Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu, the wife of local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and chief guest at the event, had no role in organising it. Dr Navjot had been heavily criticised by the opposition over her attendance at the event as reports of the poor security arrangements made emerged in the wake of the tragedy.

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