Amritsar train tragedy: Navjot Sidhu questions clean chit to driver, eyewitnesses counter loco pilot’s stone-pelting claim

By: | Updated: October 22, 2018 5:56 PM

Defending himself, Sidhu said that the Centre is the custodian of the engine of train, police, guards and tracks. He said that what sort of commission was set up by the government that gave a clean chit within a few hours.

Eyewitnesses also rubbished the driver’s claim that he slowed the train.

Congress leader and Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has questioned the clean chit given to the loco-pilot of the train within one day of the tragic incident in Amritsar where 59 people were mowed down by a speeding train on Dussehra evening. Defending himself, Sidhu said that the Centre is the custodian of the engine of train, police, guards and tracks. He said that what sort of commission was set up by the government that gave a clean chit within a few hours.

“FIR also has been lodged by the Centre. Driver was given clean chit within six hours. Why his name hasn’t been revealed? Is it possible when a train is approaching guards can’t see it,” Sidhu, who is a lawmaker from Amritsar East constituency, questioned.

Sidhu’s remark comes in the wake of MoS for Railways Manoj Sinha ruling out any action against the driver. Sinha said that there was no negligence on the part of the railways because it was not at fault. He had even said that the railways had no information about the Dussehra celebrations near the tracks.

“The incident was not a railways’ fault. There was no lapse on our part and no action against the driver will be initiated. People should refrain from organising such events near tracks in future. I think if precaution had been taken, the accident could have been averted,” Sinha said.

The minister even said that wherever such events are organised, it is the district administration that grants permission.

The accident left 59 dead of which 39 bodies have been identified. Several people were also injured in the incident.

Meanwhile, locals have rubbished the driver’s argument that he didn’t stop the train because people were pelting stones at the train. In a statement given to the police and railway authorities, the driver said that he had not stopped the train at the accident spot because a few from the crowd were pelting stones.

Shailender Singh Shally, Councillor, Ward Number 46, Amritsar, said that no one from the crowd was pelting stone. He said that the driver was lying and he intentionally didn’t slow down the train.

“I was at the spot. It seemed as if the driver wanted to mow us down. The train passed us in a matter of seconds,” Shally said.

“Is it logically possible for us to pelt stones at the train when so many people were dead and injured around us? Is it possible for us to get our bearings after such an incident and pelt stones at a speeding train?” the Councillor said talking to the Hindustan Times.

Eyewitnesses also rubbished the driver’s claim that he slowed the train.

“He (train driver) did not even slow down, let alone almost stopping. The train was in such speed that the accident happened in split seconds. There are hundreds of videos that show how fast the train went. There was no chance of us reacting, leave alone pelt stones. All we could hear around us was people screaming and crying,” Paramjeet Singh told PTI.

Ajay Goenka, who was present at the spot when the train mowed down crowd, said, “As the train passed, I heard people screaming and shouting. There was no stone pelting. I don’t understand why the driver would make up such a thing.”

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