In the death of 59 people in the Amritsar train disaster on Friday evening, a bigger tragedy has struck many families: their sole breadwinners have died; and in several cases, children are still trying to find their parents.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who visited the accident site and the injured in hospitals yesterday, said two little girls he met had lost their entire families in the accident.
“This is the photograph of my father. I have been looking for him since last night. He was last seen here (on the railway tracks near Joda Phatak). I am running around everywhere. Please help me to find him,” a young woman, crying bitterly, said at the accident site.
“I have looked everywhere, including hospitals and the railway track, but there is no trace of my son. No one is helping us,” said the father of a missing boy.
The victims include local residents and migrants from as far as Bihar, who live in Amritsar.
Families of sole breadwinners like Suresh Kumar or Parminder Pal Singh are unable to think how life will move on without them.
“It happened in a matter of 10 seconds. People did not get the chance to react to the approaching speeding train in the noise of the firecrackers,” said Raman, who saw the tragedy unfold before his eyes as he stood on the side of the railway track.
“The sight was ghastly after the train passed: lifeless bodies and limbs lay strewn around. Many were crying in pain. The people who stood there helped the injured. The authorities did not react for a long time,” said Raman.
As the train, which railway officials said had reduced its speed from 90kmph to around 60 on seeing the people on the track suddenly, continued its journey after crushing scores of people.
When the din of the firecrackers of the burning Ravana died down, wails and cries filled the air.
“People frantically looked for their loved ones. There were severed bodies all over the place,” said Baljit Kaur, a witness.
A huge crowd had gathered at the railway tracks to watch the Ravana go up in flames.
The organisers, who are linked to the ruling Congress, had even put up giant screens facing towards the railway tracks to enable people to watch the Dusshera proceedings.
Video clips being circulated clearly show that the organisers, including chief guest Navjot Kaur Sidhu, of Punjab Local Government Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, were well aware that hundreds of people were illegally standing on the railway tracks.
“There are 5,000 people on railway tracks. Even if 500 trains cross this area, they will not move,” one announcer is heard boasting in a video of the Dusshera event in the presence of Navjot Kaur.
There are accusations that Kaur arrived nearly an hour late for the function and the crowds kept standing on the tracks waiting for the effigy to be burnt.
There is a big question mark over the permissions being granted to the organisers to hold the event so close to the railway tracks.
Sidhu is being targeted as the Congress leaders behind the function are his close aides in Amritsar who went ahead with the function without mandatory permissions.
Just two minutes before the train crushed the people, leaving 59 dead and nearly 60 injured, the Howrah Mail had crossed the same spot without a problem with the same number of people standing there.
The only difference, perhaps, was the speed of the train and more importantly, the noise created by the firecrackers.
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