Amritsar train tragedy: Congress criticises Railways for shirking responsibility; Navjot Singh Sidhu vows to adopt affected families

Days after the Amritsar train tragedy claimed 61 lives, the Congress on Monday lashed out at the Union railway ministry for giving a "clean chit" to its officials, saying there were "lapses at all levels".

"Why is the Railways running away from an inquiry? Nobody has given them a clean chit," Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar said at a press conference. "The railway ministry cannot say that they weren't aware there could be trespassing in that area. You cannot ignore the reality."

 Amritsar train tragedy: Congress criticises Railways for shirking responsibility; Navjot Singh Sidhu vows to adopt affected families

At least 59 people were killed in the Amritsar train accident. Image courtesy: Arjun Sharma/101Reporters

After visiting the site of the accident at Joda Phatak, Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha had absolved the railways of all responsibility and ruled out any action against the driver of the train and an investigation into the incident.

Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani had also clearly said that the Amritsar mishap was a case of "trespassing", not a "railway accident", and thus, there would be no inquiry by the Commissioner of Railway Safety, who investigates rail-related accidents.

Listing out several lapses, the Congress said: "The headlight of the approaching train wasn't working. The GRP (Government Railway Police)  patrolling begins at 8 pm every day. I want to ask the railway authorities, were these GRP officials unaware that it is festival season?"

Jakhar claimed that the organisers of the Amritsar event had taken permission from the police to hold the Dussehra celebrations. "The police should have informed railway officials about the event. There have been failures at multiple levels. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh didn't deflect blame and has only said we must wait for the inquiry report."

Accusing the BJP of making Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu a scapegoat in the incident, Jakhar said, "Either they (the Railways) want to save someone or frame someone... The facts have to come out. People will play politics no matter what."

He said the state government would try to provide employment and education to the kin of those affected by the accident, adding that there was still one unidentified body.

Sidhu, wife Navjot Kaur to adopt families of deceased

Sidhu's wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu was the chief guest at the Dussehra event in Amritsar at which tragedy struck on Friday. She was accused of leaving the site of the accident without attending to the victims or enquiring about them.

At Monday's press briefing, Sidhu announced that he and his wife will adopt the families of the deceased.

"It's my promise to the families and to everyone: I will try to provide jobs to the kin of the deceased and adopt the children if they have no one to support them. These are the people who have respected Sidhu's family. These children will never be orphans," he said.

Earlier on Monday, Sidhu had hit out at the Centre for giving a clean chit to the train driver.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Oct 22, 2018 18:55:54 IST