Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu Sunday targeted the Indian Railways, raising several questions about its functioning and asked how a “clean chit” was given to the loco-pilot of the train, which mowed down at least 59 people watching a Dussehra event in Amritsar, in “one day”.
The statement from Sidhu, whose wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu was the chief guest at the event at Joda Phatak on Friday evening, came a day after Union Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha said there was no negligence on part of the railways.
The railways has said it was not informed by the organisers or the local administration that a Dussehra event was being organised near the tracks. It said Saturday the tragedy was a case of trespassing and ruled out any probe.
“What sort of commission did you set up that you gave a clean chit to him (loco-pilot) in one day. Either the driver was permanent or he was engaged for one day. Why do not you say?” said Sidhu.
“When you stop (the train) for cow, you even get an FIR registered if someone is found sitting on a track. And you ran over…people and you did not stop. And what was the speed of train? It was more than 100 km per hour Zip it goes,” he claimed.
Opposition parties have sought action against those who allowed the event near the railway tracks. The Akali Dal has demanded Sidhu’s dismissal from Punjab’s Congress government, alleging his wife presided over an “unauthorised” event.
The state government has ordered a magisterial probe into the circumstances that led to accident.
Sidhu also pointed fingers at the railway gateman at Joda Phatak, claiming he could have seen the lights installed at the Dussehra event from 300 metres and alerted railway and local authorities.
“Near the accident site, there is a railway barrier which is manned by a gateman. From a distance of 300 metres, he can see LED lights installed at the event and people were making videos of the event with their mobile phones,” he said.
Sidhu claimed that the train was running at a speed of more than 100 kmph.
“Train was running at a speed of more than 100 km per hour. Some people say the top light of the train was not working. If top light was not there, you cannot get it out of the yard. If top light was working then you can see three km because train had a glass (window) at the front for view,” he said.
Railways has said the loco-pilot had managed to slow down the train to around 68 kmph from the speed of 91 kmph, which he was assigned to reach.
Sidhu said some people say that this train does not pass by the area at a speed of more than 30 kmph and two trains had passed by just before the tragedy.
On questions raised about the event being organised near railway tracks, he said the permission was sought from police was for organising the event “within four walls” of a campus near the tracks.
“This tragedy did not occur within the four walls of the site,” Sidhu said.
Defending his wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu, he said she was supposed to attend six Dussehra events that evening.
“It was her fourth function and she reached the site at 6:40 pm. When she was going for the fifth function, she came to know about the tragic incident. When she enquired from police commissioner, he dissuaded her from visiting the site. Then, she directly went to the hospital (where some of the victims were taken),” he said.
He claimed seven times announcements were made from the stage that people should not stay near the track and come inside the campus.