NHRC notices to Punjab govt, Railway Board Chairman

NEW DELHI: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday issued notices to Punjab government and Chairman, Railway Board, over the Amritsar tragedy in which over 60 people were crushed to death by a train while watching the burning of the Dusshera effigy.
The Commission has sought a detailed report within four weeks.
The Commission observed that it cannot be said to be a “sane act by people” to sit on the railway tracks, at the same time, the negligence on the part of the district authorities is “apparent.”
“It seems that the local authorities and the organisers did not properly manage the crowd, gathered to watch Dussehra celebrations. It was the responsibility of the state to provide safety and protection to the citizens during the event,” the NHRC said in a statement.
“If it was true that the railway authorities were not informed about the event, it indicates highly negligent and reckless attitude of the authorities. This is a case of serious violation of human rights,” it added.
The NHRC also sought to know from the state government the details regarding disbursement of relief and rehabilitation to the aggrieved families as well as information on the status of the treatment being provided to the injured in different hospitals of Amritsar.
People watching the Dusshera proceedings from the railway tracks near Joda Phatak in Amritsar on October 19 were crushed by the speeding Jalandhar-Amritsar DMU (diesel multiple unit) train.
The railways has given a clean chit to the train driver and other officials saying that they (railways) were not informed about the Ravan effigy burning event so close to the railway tracks and the presence of hundreds of people on the tracks.
Sidhu defends wife: Under fire from various quarters, Punjab’s Local Government Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu on Monday continued to defend his wife and close aides in the train tragedy.
Sidhu raised questions about the railways giving a clean chit to the train driver and other staff.
“How can the railways give a clean chit to its driver and other staff without even conducting a probe? Why was the train hurtling down at such great speed? Why didn’t the gateman inform the train driver that hundreds of people were standing on the tracks and tell him to slow down?” Sidhu asked.
The cricketer-turned-politician is under fire from the families who lost their loved ones, local residents and political opponents since the event was organised by his close aides from the ruling Congress. His wife, Navjot Kaur, was the chief guest at the function.
Sidhu drew flak when he described the accident as a “natural disaster”.
His wife is being targeted as CCTV footage that has emerged indicates that she was present at the same venue when the accident took place and hurriedly left the place.
She had earlier claimed that she had left the place 15 minutes before the train passed killing at least 59 people. Sidhu on Monday defended her claims. — IANS