Railways washes it hands of Amritsar tragedy

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A group of about 100 people staged the protest in the northern city of Amritsar where a train ploughed through a crowd gathered to watch the burning of effigies and a fireworks display on Friday as part of a Hindu festival, killing 59. Leave alone stopping, the train did not even slow down.

Railway Board chairman Ashwani Lohani had also ruled out any statutory inquiry into the incident, saying it was a case of trespass on rail tracks. Another 50 people have been injured and hospitalized.

As the DMU train, which railway officials said had reduced its spped from 90 kmph to around 60 kmph on seeing the people on the track suddenly, continued its journey after crushing scores of people.

The driver in his statement on Saturday, October 20, said that he applied "emergency brakes" as he saw the crowd on the tracks but "still some people were caught in the path of the train". Still some people came under it.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was extremely saddened by the accident.

"Trains run at their assigned speed and people are not expected to go on the tracks". He told the Republic television channel that he lost two brothers. This train will be followed by mail/express trains, he said.

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The railway tracks were cleared off the protestors who were raising slogans against the state government and demanding resignation of Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu.

In a new development, the police have retrieved a CCTV footage, that shows the Sourabh Madan Mithu - a local councillor's son escaping from the spot of Dussehra event - which was organised by him and witnessed death of 61 spectators on a railway track in Amritsar.

"The sight was ghastly after the train passed: lifeless bodies and limbs lay strewn around".

"I am feeling a strong headache and pain in my back and legs", Das said from his hospital bed, adding his injuries were not serious. "Near the accident site, there is a railway barrier which is manned by a gateman".

Incidentally, the first information report in the case was filed by the Government Railway Police against unidentified people based on the statement of an official on duty at the dhobi ghat who claims that there was a massive sound of crackers as a speeding train was passing by.

India's railway network is the world's fourth largest and remains the main form of travel in the vast country, but it is poorly funded and deadly accidents often occur.

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