Amritsar Train Accident – Nearly 60 Precious Lives Lost, Several others injured

The event

A shocking accident took place on the auspicious day of Dassera celebrated in India when there was an event organized to burn the effigy of Ravana, some 2 km from the Amritsar station, in Punjab, India. About 300 spectators gathered at the Dhobi Ghat ground, when the incident took place. Many of them stood on the tracks close to the Jaura Phatak crossing to get a better view and were taking videos of the burring effigy as the first of the trains, 74643 Jalandhar-Amritsar DMU, ran them over. The second train, the 13006 Amritsar-Howrah Express, sped past seconds later and some of those who had jumped on the second set of tracks to escape the first were caught under it. Sources: Times of India

Was it Avoidable and preventable?

We believe accidents do not happen-these are caused. This accident was preventable .What was needed is some awareness on Hazards and risks and alertness and respect to law by the organizers. A lesson must be learned .Any blame games very common in India context of Politics would only dilute the seriousness of reaching to the root cause of the problem to avoid such occurrence in future. This kind of incidents undermines the standing of India as a Nation.

Let us look at what went wrong systematically. The first question is:

Was there a permission?

“The Amritsar Municipal Corporation confirmed that no permission was given. The organizers had not applied for the permission with the Amritsar Municipal Corporation,” Commissioner Sonali Giri said – Source-Times of India

It was a accident primarily caused due to the casual approach and lack of responsible behavior on the part of the organizers compounded by lack of safety awareness of the attendees. It is indeed intriguing how could the organizers organize such an event of mass gathering without considering the risk to life of people? The lack of respect for law was quite visibly evident.

Could the driver stop the Train by applying brake?

Can one directly blame the driver? I think “No” it would be grossly unfair. It’s not possible to stop a speeding train abruptly which would have caused a much bigger and worse disaster endangering the life of passengers, greater causally, loss of life and property. Therefore I am in the opinion that the driver does not deserve any punitive action.

Was Railway administration responsible?

I think it when such events happen in close vicinity and in railway property, Railway administration should have some responsibility, mechanism and role to play . However in political system in India and general public sentiments, any action to stop such a religiously motivated crowd from organizing an event could have a negative repercussion and impact therefore – things are taken lightly. Besides I am not quite sure whether Indian Railway has any dedicated force to monitor and control such gathering rather need the local administration and government forces to control and monitor such event.

Was there a gateman who has seen this? If there was a gateman present there?

If there was one, he should have alerted the driver to slow down the train or inform the signaling control room as several people were standing on the rail tracks and this was an obstruction seriously affecting the train safety as well. But blaming him would be sort of passing the buck and shrugging off the responsibility by the organizers cleverly.

The Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani, who visited the spot at midnight, said the railways was not informed about the event and the accident occurred at a stretch between the Amritsar and Manawala stations and not at a level crossing – Source: Times of India

Responsible and safe Behaviour:

One can’t say “I would do anything the way I want to do and if there is something wrong why didn’t you do anything to prevent? It’s like I would walk recklessly on the road-why the driver did not see me and apply brake to save my life? ”

What was the role of Local Police and administration?

There were police in the site. The event was happening in this location for several years. Therefore it was imperative that there is more organized approach to handle such crowed. The police needed to exercise more caution and active role to ensure proper barricading and security bandobast.

What is the way forward?

Understanding Unsafe Conditions and Unsafe Acts-the causal factors of accident

  • Unsafe Condition: One should expect Speeding train at any point of time with potential of devastating consequence.
  • Effigy being burned so close from railway track. Burning effigy and collapse could create potential of burning injury from fire. People may run for life without noticing any incoming train
  • Noise from fire , Cracker and public gathering, mikes etc. might have reduced audibility of the sound of the Horn
  • Lack of Place for moving quickly away to the place of Safety-sudden movement in rush created a stampede and people must have lost ability to move swiftly while the training passes in full speed arguable above 80-90 KM per hour or more.

Unsafe Acts: mass gathering and Standing on railway track

Nationwide Campaign by the Railway authorities

  • Create Awareness Programs and Mass Communication for the interest of common people
  • Strict compliance to rule of law. Mandatory permission from authorities before organizing such events
  • Adopt a Risk Based Thinking approach by organizers
  • Informing and Alerting concerned authorities
  • Absorb responsibility and act wisely without passing bucks
  • Being responsible for own safety and life
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