Amritsar tragedy: Amarinder orders magisterial probe

Amritsar: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said on Saturday that a magisterial probe into the Amritsar train tragedy in which 59 people watching Dusshera effigy burning were crushed to death by a train will reveal if mandatory permissions for holding the function were given.

Amarinder, who visited the accident site and the injured in hospitals on Saturday, said the Jalandhar Divisional Commissioner will conduct an inquiry within four weeks.

“Action will be taken against those responsible for the tragedy once the inquiry report comes. The probe will cover all aspects of the tragedy,” he said.

Asked if there were any lapses on the part of the railways, the Chief Minister said the probe would look into the matter.

“It (the probe) will ascertain whether approvals for holding the function were given or not,” Amarinder said.

The Chief Minister said that nine of those killed were yet to be identified, while 57 other Dussehra revellers were injured as the Jalandhar-Amritsar Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) passenger train mowed them down at Joda Phatak in Amritsar.

Amarinder Singh, who reached the accident site on Saturday from Delhi, said the inquiry will look into all aspects, including whether the train followed the signals and if there was any trespassing.

“It’s a terrible tragedy, we all accept it. The inquiry will find out who is at fault and who is not. I cannot prejudge an inquiry. Let them come up with the report. I have given four weeks for the inquiry to be completed,” he said.

He said while the railways was also probing the causes, the state government will hold its own inquiry. “This is not the time for making allegations. The tragedy needs to be dealt with in a proper manner. All parties should come together at this time of grief,” he said.

On Friday, hundreds of people watching a huge Ravan effigy go up in flames amid exploding crackers spilled on to the tracks at Joda Phatak when the passenger train heading to Hoshiarpur from Amritsar came hurtling down around 7 p.m.

Most people reportedly could not hear the train hooter due to the exploding crackers.

Asked why the Chief Minister reached Amritsar after 16 hours of the tragedy, he said, “I was supposed to go to Tel Aviv. I came back from New Delhi to Amritsar.” He also said he did not want the administration to get busy making arrangements for his visit.

The Amarinder government is under fire for reacting late to the massive tragedy and also for not taking action against organizers of the Dusshera function since they are from the ruling Congress and close aides of Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu.

THe Chief Minister urged all political parties “to rise above petty politicking to join hands to mitigate the sufferings of the victims and their families”.

“The 3-member Crisis Management Group, headed by Health Minister Brahm Mohindra, will camp in Amritsar for as long as required to monitor and assist in the relief operations,” the Chief Minister said.

He said he was at the Delhi airport, ready to leave for Tel Aviv, when he heard of the incident and rushed back after postponing his Israel visit.

“Though I wanted to visit Amritsar last night itself, I was advised against it by the district authorities which did not want a VIP movement to divert attention from the urgent rescue and relief efforts needed at that hour,” he said.

The Chief Minister expressed grief at the tragic incident, extending his government’s full support to the victims and their families.

He said two little girls he met in the hospital had lost their entire families in the accident.