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Amritsar train tragedy: Magisterial probe gives train driver benefit of doubt

The probe report that was made public by the Punjab Human Rights Organization (PHRO), an NGO, on Saturday, has put light on the role of the loko pilot in 5th section of the report in detail.
By HT Correspondent | Hindustan Times, Chandigarh, Amritsar
PUBLISHED ON DEC 29, 2019 10:56 PM IST

The probe conducted by Jalandhar divisional commissioner B Purushartha in the Amritsar train tragedy that indicted railway staff, cops, organisers and MC officials has given benefit of the doubt to the driver of the train that mowed down 61 persons standing on the tracks.

The probe report that was made public by the Punjab Human Rights Organization (PHRO), an NGO, on Saturday, has put light on the role of the loko pilot in 5th section of the report in detail.

Investigating authority B Purushartha had conducted a trial run of the same DMU train around three weeks after the tragedy.

“In this trial run, the loco pilot was able to see some 40-50 people standing near the tracks at the accident site with lights of their mobiles on, some 10 meters after the gate towards Amritsar side. He immediately applied emergency brakes. Although the train could not stop at or before the accident site but crossed it at a speed of around 40 kmph,” reads the report.

Under such circumstances, the loco pilot of DMU train may not be held responsible of any omission/commission or failure in discharge of his statutory duties, states the report.

“However, could he have reacted little earlier in applying emergency brakes? As per the fact finding report of Railways, he applied emergency brakes at a speed of 82kmph nearly 128 metres before the accident site. The site is around 250 metres from Jaura Phatak. A far larger gathering of people with mobile lights on should have been visible to the loko pilot at least from Jaura Phatak as it was in the case of trial run,” said the report.

It further states, “Therefore, it is evident that he applied the brakes after travelling around 125 metres after watching the crowd. Had it been done immediately, the train could have crossed at a slower speed of around 40kmph giving more reaction time to people standing on and around tracks to save themselves.”

Concluding his role, the report states, “Was it a slow reaction on part of the loko pilot? This is something which only a technically qualified person can determine. In his favour, it may be said that he was not expecting this crowd on and around rail tracks as gateman of Jaura Phatak and loco pilot of train no 13006 DN both had given him all right signals. Therefore, a benefit of doubt may be given to him for his apparently little late reaction”.

However, the report holds loco pilots, assistant loco pilots and guards of all other trains crossing this site toward the DMU after 16:50 hrs responsible.

A total of 61 people were killed and more than 100 injured when a train ploughed through a crowd that had gathered on the tracks for Dussehra celebrations at Dhobi Ghat near Jaura Phatak Road in Amritsar on October 19, 2018.

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