New Delhi: The driver of the DMU (diesel multiple unit) train that crushed 60 people to death near Jora Phatak area of Amritsar city claimed that he had no idea that hundreds of people were standing on the tracks as he was given green signal and all clear. He was interrogated by the Punjab Police officials on Saturday after being detained in connection with the incident.
Meanwhile, the Railways has defended itself saying it was not responsible for the tragedy. Northern Railways spokesperson Deepak Kumar said in a statement that the event was organised in an area which does not belong to the railways. It also said that neither the area administration nor the organisers informed it about any Dusshera ceremony at the spot.
“Therefore granting permission from the Railway’s does not arise. No information about the event was given to the railway authorities by the civil administration,” he added further. Kumar also informed that at the time of the incident, the gates of the manned level crossing were closed.
However, a senior Railway Ministry official admitted that the loco-pilots of the Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) Jalandhar-Amritsar Passenger train did not apply emergency brakes. “He informed the station master at Amritsar about the train hitting the crowd immediately after the accident,” he said. He told the Amritsar official that the incident happened some 340 metres from an interlocked level crossing.
The official agreed that the gateman should have communicated to the nearest station about the assembly of a large crowd near the railway crossing that had spilled over on to the tracks. The station master should have been informed and he should have alerted the loco-pilots.
Meanwhile, railway officials were also gathering information from the railway linemen posted along the tracks near the Jora Phatak area who failed to inform the DMU driver regarding the presence of over 700 people on the railway tracks who were watching the burning of the Ravan and other effigies during Dusshera celebrations.
Following the tragic accident, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal who was in the US, cancelled all his engagements and was set to return.
Earlier in the day senior political figures including Punjab Governor V.P. Singh Badnore and Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, visited the injured in Guru Nanak Dev government hospital. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh is also expected to arrive at hospital later on Saturday and meet the families of victims.