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Minister denies Railways’ lapse in Amritsar train tragedy

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Manoj Sinha

Amritsar, Oct 20: A day after 60 hapless Dussehra revellers were mowed down by a train here in Punjab, Union Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha on Saturday said his ministry is not to be blamed for any lapses leading to the disaster.

The Railways was not informed about the Dusshera ceremony near the Jora Phatak vicinity either by the area administration or the event organisers, he added.

“In fact, the Commissioner (Amritsar) in his report has said he has not granted permission to hold the Dusshera festival at the spot,” Sinha, who visited the accident site at midnight, told reporters.

On Friday, a 700 strong crowd watching a huge Ravan effigy go up in flames amid exploding crackers spilled on to the tracks at Jora Phatahk when the Jalandhar-Amritsar DMU passenger train heading to Hoshiarpur from Amritsar came hurtling down around 7 p.m.

amritsar train tragedy

Amritsar Train Accidents

In just 10-15 seconds it left behind a heap of crushed and dismembered bodies. Video clips posted on the social media showed some people who had apparently seen the approaching train tried to run away.

Sinha said the venue was nearly 70 metres from the accident spot which was not the Railways’.

Witnesses and survivors said the deafening noise of fire crackers masked the sound of the approaching train.

Saying it was not the time for the blame game, Sinha added that there was no provision of barricading along railway tracks across the country.

Earlier Chairman Railway Board Ashwani Lohani had explained that the accident site falls under the “mid-section of the two stations” where the trains run at their “assigned speed” as per the condition of the track.

Lohani on Saturday also dismissed the railways’ responsibility in the tragedy. “The place where the accident happened was basically mid-section between two stations — Mananwala and Amritsar and not at a level crossing.”

“Trains run at their assigned speed and people are not expected to go on the tracks. It was a clear case of trespassing,” he said.

“It’s the duty of the public not to hold public functions near the railway tracks. Even the local administration should not allow such functions,” Sinha said, adding “The driver could not see the crowd standing on the tracks because of the curve,” he added.

According to a senior railway official, the incident happened some 340 metres from an interlocked level crossing of the railways.

Lohani also said that the railway posts its staff at the manned level crossing to regulate the road traffic and nod at the mid-sections of the railway track between two stations.

The Railway Board chairman said at Jora Phatak the Jalandhar-Amritsar Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) passenger train which was running at its assigned speed, its loco-pilot applied brakes to slow it down.

At the time of the incident the gates of the manned level crossing were closed and the train was given the green signal.

When asked about the responsibility of the loco-pilot, Lohani said, “Our initial report suggest that the loco-pilot applied the brakes and the speed came down from 90 kmph to around 60-65 kmph. We are still looking at the seepdometer charts,” Lohani said.

The train driver has been detained at the Ludhiana railway station and questioned by the Punjab and Railway Police on Saturday.

A senior Railway Ministry official, however, admitted that the loco-pilots of the Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) Jalandhar-Amritsar Passenger train did not apply emergency brakes.

Emergency brakes could also derail the train at high speed, the official explained.

Doctors at the Civil Hospital said that the death toll could rise as some of the injured were critical. Many killed were migrants from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

The Punjab government has declared state mourning on Saturday and a probe has been ordered.

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal who was in the US, cancelled all his engagements and was set to return.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh who arrived in Amritsar on Saturday at the accident spot 16 hours after the tragedy, has announced Rs 5 lakh compensation each to the kin of the deceased immediately after the incident.

He also cancelled his proposed Israel visit in the aftermath of the disaster.

The Prime Minister also announced Rs 2 lakh compensation each to the families of the dead and Rs 50,000 each to the injured.

IANS

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BS-IV vehicles needed for public utility services & purchased up to March 31 be registered: SC

The issue of pollution from vehicles had cropped up before the apex court which is hearing a matter related to air pollution in the Delhi-national capital region (NCR).

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Toyota car sales Down

New Delhi, Sep 18 : The Supreme Court Friday said BS-IV vehicles, which were purchased on or before March 31 this year and are necessary for municipal corporation in Delhi to carry out essential public utility services, should be registered.

The apex court had in October 2018 said that no BS-IV compliant vehicle would be sold or registered in India from April 1, 2020.

In 2016, the Centre had also announced that India would skip the BS-V norms and adopt BS-VI by 2020.

BS emission norms are standards instituted by the government to regulate output of air pollutants from motor vehicles.

The matter came up for hearing before a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde which dealt with applications related to registration of three types of vehicles — CNG , BS-IV and BS-VI compliant — for being used for essential public utility services.

“Insofar as CNG vehicles are concerned, there cannot be any valid rejection to the vehicles, as the emission from these vehicles is within the limits. Therefore, we direct that these vehicles may be registered,” said the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.

It noted that BS-VI norms came into force on April 1, 2020 and vehicles purchased up to March 31 this year were BS-IV compliant.

“Admittedly the emission from BS-VI compliant vehicles is within the norms and hence the vehicles purchased on or after April 1, 2020 and which are BS-VI compliant, should also liable to be registered,” it said.

The top court noted in its order that BS-IV compliant vehicles purchased up to March 31 this year must have been registered with the E-Vahan portal of the government before the cut-off date to establish the date of purchase.

“If the purchase had been made on or before March 31, 2020 and these vehicles are BS-IV compliant, such vehicles necessary for the municipal corporation to carry essential public utility services should also be registered. But such cases shall be scrutinized by the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA),” the bench said.

The bench said to avoid repeated applications being filed before the court just for the purpose of getting registration, “we direct that the EPCA shall scrutiny the pending cases and submit a report to this court so that a common order could be passed without the necessity for several interlocutory applications.”

The issue of pollution from vehicles had cropped up before the apex court which is hearing a matter related to air pollution in the Delhi-national capital region (NCR).

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Coronavirus: Karnataka’s Covid tally crosses 5 lakh

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Coronavirus in India

Bengaluru, Sep 19 : With 8,626 fresh cases across the state on Friday, Karnataka’s Covid-19 tally crossed the 5 lakh mark, while 10,949 people were discharged after treatment in the last 24 hours.

“The number of positive cases across the state is 5,02,982, including 1,01,129 active cases, while 3,94,026 cases were discharged since March 8,” said the health bulletin.

With 179 patients succumbing to the infection during the day, the state’s toll has gone up to 7,808.

Bengaluru, which is the epicentre of the disease in the state, registered 3,623 cases during the day, taking its tally to 1,87,705, including 41,914 active cases, while 1,43,198 patients were discharged till date, with 2,725 in the last 24 hours.

With 37 deaths during the day, the city’s toll has increased to 2,592.

“The number of patients in the intensive care units (ICU) across the state is 814, including 271 in Bengaluru Urban district, Dharwad 74, Ballari 67 and Hassan 62,” the bulletin said.

Mysuru saw 600 new cases, Udupi 493, Dakshina Kannada 456, Ballari 296, Shivamogga 257 and Belagavi 221.

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Anil Dhasmana is new chief of NTRO, spy agency that keeps an eye from the sky

Anil Dhasmana is the former chief of India’s external spy agency, R&AW

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Anil Dhasmana with Amit Shah

Former Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) chief Anil Dhasmana has been appointed as National Technical Research Organisation, India’s technical body that is responsible for geospatial intelligence and satellite imagery.

The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has cleared the appointment and the decision was formally conveyed to the retired Indian Police Service officer on Friday.

Dhasmana succeeds former Intelligence Bureau officer Satish Jha who demitted office on Thursday.

Dhasmana, a 1981 batch Indian Police Service officer, is a Pakistan expert and was the lead planner of the Balakot air strikes in February 2019 after Pakistan-backed terrorists killed 40 CRPF soldiers in the Pulwama car bombing.

Dhasmana had stepped down a few months later when his extended term due to the general elections ended in June 2019.

The top police officer returns to the center of action 14 months later at a time the NTRO is playing a crucial role, tracking movements of the China’s People’s Liberation Army near the many friction points along the Line of Actual Control that have seen heavy deployment of soldiers and support elements from both sides. The two countries have been speaking to each other at military and diplomatic levels to resolve the stand-off but there are some indications that the stand-off would continue for some time.

Dhasmana had joined R&AW, India’s external spy agency in 1993 from his parent cadre Madhya Pradesh and had worked extensively with the agency’s Pakistan desk.

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