New Delhi: Amritsar Dusshera event that claimed 61 lives was held ‘without permission’ and ‘without undertaking required safety and security measures’, revealed the magisterial probe into the incident. The inquiry conducted by the Divisional Commissioner, Jalandhar, B. Purushartha, on the orders of the Chief Minister made it clear that Navjot Kaur Sidhu, the wife of the Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who attended the function as a Chief Guest, had “no role in organising the event”.
The report blamed the police and the Municipal Corporation for their “failure to enforce the law and showing unwanted generosity”. Furthermore it stated that ‘key rail employees failed to take safety and security measures even after having full knowledge of presence of a large number of people on and around the rail tracks’.
“Everyone concerned with organisation, regulation and supervision of the event under inquiry committed omissions and commissions including dereliction of statutory duties. 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,” the report observed.
The comprehensive report submitted to the Punjab government on November 21″examined all the aspects related to the tragedy”. It was based on interviews with all the people affected and various officials.
The inquiry concluded that the, gateman of Jaura Phatak, Gate No. 27, Amit Singh, had 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. “He is one of those key railway employees whose blunder has resulted into this accident,” the report said.
The report also blamed the gateman of another gate (No. 26) for his failure. “It is also evident that gateman of Railways Level Crossing, Gate No. 26, Nirmal Singh, also failed discharging his statutory duties by his late reaction in informing Gateman of Jaura Phatak, Gate No. 27. He came to know about this gathering on rail tracks at around 5.30 p.m., but informed Amit Singh at around 6.40-6.45 p.m. He did not inform the concerned Station Master and kept giving all right signals to approaching trains. Therefore, he is also responsible for committing this blunder. 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.
Blaming the organisers for failure to inform the railways, the report said,”The organisers neither informed the railways nor took any precautions and safety measures to stop people from watching the celebrations from rail tracks. A simple information could have resulted into issuance of a caution order by the Railways for controlled and alerted movement of trains in this rail section and other security measures which could have easily prevented this accident.”
“Had the organisers been sensitive to the safety and security of the people watching the Dussehra celebrations and taken the simple action of putting a view cutter of 10-12 feet height along the boundary wall separating the ground and rail tracks, the accident could have been prevented,”it observed.
The probe indicted Saurabh Madan Mithoo, the son of Congress councillor in Amritsar and a close political aide of the Sidhu couple, and officials of the Amritsar Municipal Corporation, local administration, police and railway authorities for lapses that led to the tragedy. Mithoo was the main organiser of the Dusshera event while Navjot Kaur was the chief guest.
Reacting over the probe report, Shiromani Akali Dal leader Virsa Singh Valtoha said that they had predicted earlier that the Sidhu couple would get a clean chit.
Following the report, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh ordered stern action against all those found responsible for the mishap. “The inquiry revealed an alarming situation so far as regulation and supervision of an event at a public place/government land was concerned”, a Punjab government spokesperson said.
(With inputs from agencies)