Why did police not remove people from tracks or watch out for train, ask Mudda speaker, adding that convention of not informing authorities must be done away with
On Friday, at least 60 people lost their lives when a train ran over them near Joda Phatak, two kilometers away from Amritsar station, while they were watching the traditional Ravan Dahan ceremony which is the highlight of the Dussehra festival. At least 70 people were injured. Most of the deceased belonged to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Twenty corpses are yet to be identified. A magisterial inquiry has been ordered into the incident. The report will be submitted in the next four weeks.
Shockingly, for such a large event, security arrangements were conspicuous in their absence. Saurav Mitthu Madan, the son of Congress MLA Vijay Madan, organised it. Former MLA, Amritsar East, Navjot Kaur Sidhu, was chief guest. She has laid the blame for the mishap squarely at the doorstep of the railways. It is worth nothing that this was the first time the event was being held at the particular venue, yet no permission was taken from the local administration to organise it. Some sections of people are also discontented at Kaur leaving the venue after the accident took place. However, Kaur’s husband, minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, went on record to state that Kaur had visited victims in hospital the same evening. Kaur had told The Indian Express that she had left before the mishap took place.
The police authorities were reportedly informed at the last minute for the security arrangements of Dr Kaur. However, they still did not post personnel for crowd control and crowd safety. But they had information about the event.
There was a five foot wall separating the tracks from the ground. It has been reported that people climbed on the wall and stood on the tracks to watch the show.
Clearly, the government machinery does not have data as to what kind of event should be held at what venue and what scale of security arrangements must accompany each of them.
Congress MP Mallikarjun Kharge has asked for an inquiry as to why such accidents are rising.
MoS, Railways, Manoj Sinha, said as the local administration was not informed, no notice went out to railway authorities regarding the event. There is a blind turn ahead, so the driver could not have crossed a certain speed limit. It is customary to leave to his judgement as to when he would use the horn and where he would slow down. Train speeds on the main line are normally high, and this was the one on which it was travelling. As it was evening, it was too dark for him to see the people on the tracks, leading to the mishap.
Saturday’s edition of Mudda investigated into the causes of the accident. Mr Chaurasia, the anchor, moderated the debate.
BJP leader Dinesh Singh said, “While it is true that revellers should not have been standing on the tracks and taking selfies and videos of the celebrations so recklessly, the organisers are primarily responsible for the tragedy. First of all, they chose the wrong venue. Then, they defaulted on their responsibility of informing the administration. Also, Dr Kaur should have seen that the function she was attending had due authorisations. The fact that no permission was taken is a huge transgression. And it took place at the lowest level of the district administration.”
Journalist Atul Chandra felt that a gap in communication at the level of the district administration as well as between the railways and the government caused the incident.
Anil Tiwari, who is an expert on railways, informed his audience that the driver can’t pull emergency brakes on certain stretches. “It has been seen that the pulling of emergency brakes at the wrong moment has caused train derailments and claimed many lives. It is possible he could not see the blind turn ahead and in the absence of outside information, drove at normal speed, assuming the line to be clear. Prima face I don’t think there is any error on the part of the driver,” he said.
Raju said that informing authorities and seeking due permissions before organising Ravan Dahan is important because firecrackers are burst as part of the celebrations. “It was a large function with a very tall effigy and a lot of explosives being used. Even if there is a longstanding convention for not taking permission for these events, that must be broken. The Ludhiana DRM has said all protocols were followed by the driver. When he saw there were people on the tracks, it was already too late. He still reduced the train speed from 90 kmph to 60 kmph. He could not have used emergency brakes on that stretch. After the mishap had happened, the crowd started stoning the train, so for the safety of passengers he took it to Ludhiana,” Raju said.
Chandra said that if a dignitary attends an event, organisers inform the authorities for the purpose of security. So the local administration was in the know. But it was still callous enough not to inform the railways. “Both the time of the Ravan Dahan ceremony and the train timings were known to all. But Kaur was late because she had to other functions to attend. That’s why the dahan was delayed and it coincided with the passing of the train. Even the police could have posted a battalion there, too, to watch out for the coming of the train. A lot of measures could have been taken,” he said.
Raju said the police should have ensured people were not standing on the tracks.
Tiwari blamed the callousness of the local administration for the accident. Citing the Dhamraghat, Bihar, accident in the month of savan, in 2013, he said that no lesson has been learnt and that the blame game continues between the administration and the railways. He added that since the Sam Pitroda committee’s modernisation advice has been taken heed of and work started, the Anil Kakodkar panel’s recommendations for safety should also be taken into account now.
—Compiled by Sucheta Dasgupta
“Too much politics happening over corona in Delhi”
The Delhi chief minister’s decision was irresponsible, so it was overturned by the Lt Governor. Delhi belongs to everyone and such discrimination as Kejriwal proposed will not work. People know Kejriwal more for his wrong decisions than for any good work done by him
Even as Covid-19 cases in the country have crossed over 2.5 lakh, a petty spat has erupted over the issue of hospital beds. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriewal said non-Delhi residents will not be able to access Delhi government healthcare for Covid-19, and Lt Governor Anil Baijal overruled the decision and ordered Delhi government hospitals to treat all patients. APN’s popular debate Mudda discussed the issue with BJP’s Anand Sahu, Congress’s Ajay Arora, AAP’s Vanshraj Dubey, political expert Niranjan Poddar and APN Editor Ajay Kaul.
Sahu said: “The Delhi chief minister’s decision was irresponsible, so it was overturned by the Lt Governor. Delhi belongs to everyone and such discrimination as Kejriwal proposed will not work. People know Kejriwal more for his wrong decisions than for any good work done by him.”
Vanshraj Dubey: “It was an expert team that had advised the Delhi CM in view of the likelihood of cases rising in the capital. Kejriwal has not taken any decision against the Centre’s orders.”
Arora said: “We are fighting a pandemic, the biggest battle-ever. These people are not bothered about Covid, they are looking at their vote-banks. They only want to enjoy power. BJP and AAP have turned Delhi into a football match, and the common man is getting ignored.”
Poddar said: “People get to see everything, and this petty politics has upset the people. All people want is safety and that their livelihoods and health should remain protected. Covid is spreading more in urban areas and not so much in rural areas. Delhi has around 2 crore people and therefore the number of Covid positive patients are rising. I don’t see anything wrong in Kejriwal’s decision to protect facilities for the people of Delhi. Politics is happening over Covid.”
Kaul said: “Discrimination of any kind is not good at all. Will a patient get his Aadhaar card, or should he look for relief when he comes to hospital?”
Dubey said: “Healthcare is free for the people of Delhi. In case there’s a serious case, the CM had already said he/she will not be denied government healthcare. Private hospitals are getting into black marketing of hospital beds.”
Kaul said: “Then Kejriwal should have made it all clear.”
Dubey said: “See if Delhi people do not get healthcare in Delhi, will they run to Ghaziabad? And will the UP government take such patients?”
Sahu said: “People will drive out AAP from Delhi.”
Arora said: “I agree with Kaul that the issue is why should people get discriminated for treatment. What if the child is a Delhi resident and parents are from Bihar? How will such a child get treatment for his patents in Delhi? Too much politics is happening over corona in Delhi.”
Dubey said: “See if patients want to take treatment in Delhi, there is nothing wrong in that. We have not challenged the Lt Governor’s decision. Problems arise when beds are scarce. Delhi will have its own budget, just like Haryana and UP also have.”
Poddar said: “Delhi has Delhi government hospitals, private hospitals and central government hospitals. Right now, inter-state traffic is limited. There are central government hospitals also where people can reach for healthcare. I am of the opinion there is nothing wrong in Delhi saving its facilities for its own people. Ambulances know where to take people.”
“Economy should be opened only gradually”
Economy will repair itself in time. But once lives are lost, they will not come back. Labour has gone back, so what good will we achieve by unlocking?”
On the one hand, coronavirus cases are rising and on the other, the country is now on unclock mode. After 75 days, temples, restaurants and malls have opened at various places. APN’s popular debate Mudda discussed the issue with medical experts Dr Rahul Bharadwaj, Dr Yash Gulati, Dr AK Shukla and Dr Ankit Kumar Sinha, economist Dr Ashok Kaithal and APN Editor, Ajay Kaul.
Bharadwaj said: “Every day, corona cases are rising. We shall soon overtake the US. We need to ensure strict discipline at containment zones. What’s the rationale behind opening of temples and gurudwaras? Economy will repair itself in time. But once lives are lost, they will not come back. Labour has gone back, so what good will we achieve by unlocking?”
Dr Kaithal said: “We have not seen the desired result of the lockdown. Once lives are saved, economy will be saved. World economy is in bad shape, and can be opened only gradually, and slowly. Economy will be revived only after the manufacturing sector is opened.”
Dr Sinha said: “We have unlocked when the cases are rising. Over 50 to 70 percent patients are unable to access healthcare. We cannot stop corona. The government is more concerned about concealing the correct picture.”
Kaul said: “Economic activity has to be resumed. By having a further lockdown, corona will vanish. Till when can we suspend economic activity? Lockdown was supposed to put infrastructure in place, like PPEs, masks, hospital beds and so on. Opening of religious places is irrelevant, as that will not impact economy. Healthcare has failed India. Private hospitals are admitting patients selectively.”
Dr Bhargava said: “Lockdown was meant to ensure that the facilities match the demand, that we had enough beds and ventilators for the patients, because in the eventuality of an outburst, we cannot match the kind of healthcare strength that is needed. Lockdown was meant to flatten the curve. Corona is a pandemic. See, cancer patients will die if we do not have sufficient beds. Why was testing stopped in private labs? Did we visualize this kind of life that we will leave our old to die? Is this what we want? Where will middle-class people go?”
Dr Gulati said: “We are a poor country, and it’s important to focus our economy now. Corona cases are bound to rise. Luckily, our mortality rate is controlled. We cannot be left to die of hunger.”
Dr Kaithal said: “Cases are going up and the situation is frightening. We should revive the economy only gradually. Social distancing should be strictly enforced. Purchasing power of people needs to go up.”
Dr Sinha said: “I agree that we need to look into the economy now, but we should also focus on testing and contact tracing.”
Kaul said: “Lockdown was meant to strengthen the infrastructure. AIIMS chief Dr Guleria had said that in June cases are expected to peak, then why were we not prepared for that?”
Dr Shukla said: “It’s a respiratory virus. All will be affected in some way or the other. Use of masks and hand hygiene is important. It’s good that the economy has been opened but we must not take the precautionary measures lightly.”
“We need to focus on survival and revival”
The government has approved the road map for implementing the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), farmer and street vendor package that was announced earlier as part of the Rs 20 lakh crore stimulus to restart the economy. APN’s popular debate Mudda discussed the issue with economic experts Mukesh Mohan Gupta and Ajay Prakash, and UP Industrial Development Minister Satish Mahana.
Gupta said: “Challenges are being faced by all sectors, the reason being the global coronavirus pandemic. The new definition of MSME has broadened its scope. Moody’s has downgraded India’s rating, but that’s the same story with many other countries. In the US, there is unprecedented rioting happening, so that;’s no better. Manufacturing has been impacted here, so the rating will go down.”
Mahana said: “The Rs 20 lakh crore package is geared to instill confidence among the labour and industry stakeholders. See, the world is in the grip of an economic crisis, but PM Modi has been taking decisive steps. Unlock 1 will help to revive economic activities, and for that the consumer has to come in the market. No one can say how long Coronavirus will last. Under MNREGA, help has been reached out to the vulnerable sections… the effort is to go in for strong handholding. We have to focus on survival and revival. You just can’t look at industry for revival, agriculture also needs to be boosted, cash inflow has to be looked into. We are mapping the skills of the labour, and helping in matchmaking skills with needs. We will not leave any stone unturned in the interest of industry and the workers. Modi has been forward-looking and transparent, there is no room for corruption. We are looking at the opportunity behind the challenge. US is in the grip of a crisis. But a dialogue has been started with other countries. “Advantage UP” is being looked into in the fields of milk production, surface water, infrastructure, etc. We are focusing on Advantage UP and UP will be preferred state for investing in the country with ease of doing business. See, we are in a strong position, but the economic crisis is being faced globally, so how can we talk about our country alone? We have to focus on how to get out of the crisis.”
Prakash said: “India has huge numbers, but with no earning, demand has been low. We have been told 80 percent units have started work, but they are on 25 percent capacity. We are unable to utilize the capacity to the fullest because labour is away.”
Gupta said: “When sick, we can’t run, so how can we expect our economy to be normal. Demand is low, rating will be down. Cases are going up.”
Prakash said: “The Five Is pointed out by the PM– Intent, Inclusion, Investment, Infrastructure and Innovation are very important. Only the top 1 percent has been getting richer, now we need to broaden the base.”
Gupta said: “We need to think of local products to remain healthy.”
Prakash said: “We have the opportunity, but we need to act fast, we need labour reforms, tax systems, satisfaction has to be provided to the foreign investor. The desire is there to attract foreign investment but we have not been as fast as we should have been. At first, we need to get labour back, and restore the supply chain and value system, and check out competitor countries like Korea and some other south east Asian countries, we need to strengthen the base.”