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Amritsar train tragedy: Four months on, SIT yet to fix criminal responsibility

Three days after the tragedy, the then Punjab director general of police (DGP) Suresh Arora directed the government railway police (GRP) to hold a probe into the incident.

chandigarh Updated: Mar 06, 2019 22:21 IST
Anil Sharma
Anil Sharma
Hindustan Times, Amritsar
Amritsar,Amritsar train tragedy,Punjab
On October 19, 61 people died and 143 were injured when a train ploughed through a crowd that had gathered on the tracks for Dussehra celebrations at Dhobi Ghat near Jaura Phatak Road.(HT File )

Four-and-a-half months have lapsed since the Amritsar train tragedy, however, the special investigation team (SIT) that was formed to ‘fix criminal responsibility’ for the accident is yet to complete its probe.

Three days after the tragedy, the then Punjab director general of police (DGP) Suresh Arora directed the government railway police (GRP) to hold a probe into the incident. Soon after, additional director general of police (ADGP, railways) Iqbal Singh Sahota, was directed to monitor the investigation. He had said the probe will be completed within three months.

Additional inspector general (AIG, railways) Daljit Singh Rana heads the SIT, which comprises deputy superintendent of police (DSP, railways) Surinder Kumar, two inspectors Narinder Kumar and Nirmal Singh, and GRP’s Amritsar station house officer (SHO) Balbir Singh.

Rana said, “We have finished questioning the railway staff, organisers of the Dussehra event, the police and civil administration employees. At present, we are waiting for forensic reports of samples sent to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory in Chandigarh. The probe will be completed within the next twenty days.”

Navjot Kaur not on radar

The SIT, however, has not summoned Punjab local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu’s wife Navjot Kaur for questioning. Kaur was chief guest at the Dussehra event organised by Saurabh Madan, son of Congress councillor Vijay Madan.

Jalandhar divisional commissioner B Purushartha had conducted a magisterial inquiry into the incident and had given her a “clean chit”.

The magisterial probe, which was submitted to Punjab home secretary NS Kalsi on November 21, observed that the organisers had held the event without permission and had not made adequate security arrangements or taken safety precautions.

The report also blamed the police and functionaries of the municipal corporation for failing to enforce the law. It held that key railway employees had neglected to ensure people’s safety despite knowing that a large number of people will gather on and around the tracks on the festival.

The report condemned Jaura Phatak (gate number 27) gateman Amit Singh and gateman of gate number 26 Nirmal Sing for failing to discharge their statutory duties and not enforcing the safety measures that could have prevented the accident.

Only safely guidelines issued in the aftermath

Punjab chief minister (CM) Captain Amarinder Singh had ordered that ‘stern action’ be taken against those found responsible for the Amritsar train tragedy but his words seem to have been taken lightly. Additional deputy commissioner of police (ADCP) Jagjit Singh Walia said, “We only got guidelines for preventing such incidents in future.”

Meanwhile, chief commissioner of railway safety SK Pathak, who conducted parallel probe into the tragedy for the Indian Railways absolved railway officials and employees of blame. In his report, he said people’s negligence caused the accident.

On October 19, 61 people died and 143 were injured when a train ploughed through a crowd that had gathered on the tracks for Dussehra celebrations at Dhobi Ghat near Jaura Phatak Road.

First Published: Mar 06, 2019 21:37 IST