By the Editor: Siddharth Sehgal
On Oct 19, 2018, hundreds of people gathered for Dusshera celebration, were mowed down by a fast moving train. A chain of negligence which led to this tragedy has etched into our mindset the grisly fact that we take safety and caution for granted. It’s the assumption that if nothing wrong has happened, nothing wrong will happen that bothers me most. This loss was avoidable and as the tradition goes, after an unfortunate incident we try put the ball in each others court when it comes to pinpointing responsibility.
Before we discuss anything, I’d appeal you to be cautious while celebrating festivals be it Diwali, Christmas, New Year. Often relaxed, festive mood lead to carelessness which results in injury and sometimes even death. Same thing happened in Amritsar where crackers and effigy burning led to people moving to a distance but, a group of people moved to the railway track and these people were so engrossed in watching the burning Ravan that no one paid attention to the oncoming train, situation was further aggravated by the fact that fireworks noise muffled the sound of the coming train. When I saw that terrifying clip on the news, I could only imagine the scene there; the train was so fast that people barely had 3-4 seconds to react.
First and foremost, the responsibility lies with the organizers. They should have made sure of security arrangements, I am just surprised at the excuse given by the chief guest at the event, later on in an interview, that Ravan effigy has been burning at the same location for over a decade and since nothing happened in the past, there was no presumption that any accident could happen in future. And it turned out that there was no permission for the event from city or state authorities, nor any information given to railway administration on the celebration event. The organizers are absconding and all efforts should be made for their arrest.
Second, the railways, I think some part of the fault lies with railway as well. Given the speed of the train and that too just two km away from the last station nearby an urban area, calls for some serious questions. There were also reports of a train passing on that track prior to the accident, though at a very slow speed. Some say there were 2 trains involved in the accident. All these questions needs answers and railway right now is trying hard to wash their hands off the blame. Though, I don’t think any of this is premeditated, I think the driver didn’t had any idea of finding so many people on the track, and by the time he might have understood the situation, it was already too late.
Third, not to rub salt on the wound, I think people should not have gathered on the track. In video it showed that many in the victims were making videos on smart phones, all eyes were on burning Ravan effigy. Especially during the time of night, railway tracks are very risky place to be. Small children were in the dead too because the adults weren’t being adults.
The sad part of this story is that instead of coming together and working for the relief of beleaguered families, politicians are already roiled in mud slinging. We have to start asking some serious questions to ourselves, this un-orderly, callous and inhumane system is our own doing and I think we should start looking for a change before it proves to be our undoing.