Amritsar tragedy not ‘Railway Accident’, no Statutory Inquiry: Railway Board Chairman

Railways to launch massive anti-trespassing drive, budget to be ‘no constraint’

AMRITSAR: The Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) will not probe the Amritsar tragedy in which a train mowed down 59 Dussehra revellers, with the Railway Board chairman saying Saturday it was not a “railway accident” but a case of trespassing on rail tracks.

The Commission of Railway Safety works under the administrative control of the Ministry of Civil Aviation and conducts mandatory inquiry into all railway accidents – at unmanned level crossings, derailments or after a bridge collapse.

“The Commission conducts statutory investigation into railway accidents. This was an incident where people were trespassing on the tracks and not an accident,” Railway Board chairman Ashwani Lohani said.

The railways has maintained that it was not at fault because it had no information about the Dussehra event.

Earlier, Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha ruled out any punitive action by his department.

“The incident was not a railways’ fault. There was no lapse on our part and no action against the driver will be initiated,” Sinha said Saturday.

“People should refrain from organising such events near the tracks in future. I think if precautions had been taken, the accident could have been averted,” he said, adding wherever such events are held, the district administration gives the permission.

Vivek Kumar, Divisional Railway Manager, Ferozpur, said the driver has been questioned but no lapse was found.

He said the train was travelling at a speed of 91 km/hr but after spotting the crowd on the track, it slowed down to 68 km/hr.

Senior railway officials said that there was no way in which the railways could have averted the accident.

Railways which pays compensation in most case of accidents at unmanned level crossings, in which the victims are “trespassers”, has so far not offered any monetary aid to the families of those killed on Friday.

Massive anti-trespassing drive

The railways will launch a massive drive against trespassing on tracks across its network, Chairman Railway Board Ashwani Lohani said Saturday, a day after 59 Dussehra revellers were run over by a train in an incident described by the railways as a “clear case of trespassing”.

Lohani said the railways has launched such campaigns in the past as well, but intermittently. The national transporter had initiated a drive last year too, after a slew of ‘selfie deaths’ on tracks were reported from across the country.

“We will launch a nationwide campaign against trespassing and the dangers thereof. This is all that we can do to avoid such tragedies,” he said. In the first six months of 2017, more than eight people lost their lives in accidents while clicking selfies on tracks, officials said, adding a campaign was launched after these reports.

In 2018, as of September, 1,20,923 people were arrested and prosecuted by the railway protection force (RPF) for intruding the railway system.

Under section 147 of Indian Railway Act, a total fine of Rs 2.94 crore was imposed on them by courts during the period, according to data provided by the railways.

In 2017, 1,75,996 persons were arrested and prosecuted by the RPF for trespassing the railways system and a fine of Rs 4.35 crore was imposed on them.

“We will increase the frequency of such campaigns and budget will not be a constraint,” General Manager, Northern Railway, Vishwesh Chaube told PTI.

The gathering of people close to tracks was a “clear case of trespassing”, a senior official had said Friday, after the accident in Amritsar in which the speeding train ran through people standing on track and watching a Ravana effigy burn. Fifty-nine people were killed in the incident.