Amritsar: A day after a speeding train mowed down 60 people in Amritsar, it was revealed that the organisers didn’t have the required permission to hold the event. Railway authorities said the local station officials were not alerted about the event.

Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani said in a statement said that the accident occurred at a stretch between two stations — Amritsar and Manawala, and not at a level crossing. "At midsections, trains run at their assigned speed and people are not expected to be on the tracks. At midsections, there is no railway staff posted. We have staff at level crossings whose job is to regulate traffic," he said, explaining why the railways was not alerted about the congregation by its staff.

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More than 300 people were watching the Ravan dahan programme on the last day of Dusshera celebrations on the rail tracks near Joda Phatak near Amritsar. The effigy was just 100 metres away from the tracks. As the effigy was lit and the fireworks went off, a section of the crowd retreated towards the tracks as it was on a higher ground, where a large number of people were already standing to watch the celebrations. The people who were hit could not see or hear the train due to the exploding crackers. 

The eyewitnesses at the accident site claimed that Congress had organised Dussehra celebrations without permission, where Congress leader and Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu’s wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu was the chief guest. 
The locals claim she continued to give the speech as people were struck down by the train. A video recording shows that she said: “Let 500 trains pass by, but you will still witness more than 5000 people waiting for you on the tracks.”

The leader had initially denied having any knowledge about the incident. She had told reporters: “I had just left the site when the incident happened.” 

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Minister of State in the Ministry of Railways Manoj Sinha says no permission for the event was sought from the Railways and no information was shared. 

Sidhu while defending her acts said celebrations take place on that particular location every year and the people who are joining the tragic incident with politics should be ashamed of themselves.

(With agency inputs)