If not for the political connection, the Amritsar train tragedy was clearly avoidable. A 4-foot wall separated the Amritsar Dussehra venue and the busy railway tracks, about 100 metres away from the spot where the Ravan effigy had been installed.
By all counts, it was an unsafe venue, but the organisers, led by a Congress councilor’s husband, still succeeded in getting a no-objection certificate from the police and didn’t deem it necessary to get a permission from the municipal corporation and the pollution department, which otherwise form a mandatory condition for organising such functions.
But apparently this is a standard practice for most of such organisers due to the political clout they possess thanks to their proximity to powerful politicians in an area.
Official sources said local politicians often press the officials concerned to bypass rules for giving permission for holding religious or social congregations.
No surprise that that now Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has directed Home Secretary NS Kalsi to prepare detailed guidelines for permission to hold religious and social congregations, in order to prevent the kind of tragedy that struck Amritsar during Dussehra celebrations last evening.
The guidelines would clearly define the rules and regulations for holding such events/gatherings in any part of the state on any occasion.
Saurabh Madan, who organised the Dussehra celebrations that led to the tragedy in Amritsar, is the husband of Congress councillor Vijay Madan. Giving credence to their political connection, Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and his wife Navjot Kaur were to be the chief guests.
Saurabh Madan, who is also the president of Dussehra Committee (East), had sought police permission for the October 19 event. He had also sought security from the police as Cabinet minister Sidhu and his wife were supposed to attend the event which was later attend only by the latter.
The Amritsar police on Saturday said though they had given a “no objection” certificate for the Dussehra celebration near Joda Phatak here, the organisers did not take permission from the municipal corporation and the pollution department.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Amrik Singh Powar said if any of these permissions is not granted, then the permission for holding a Dussehra event could not be granted.
On Saturday, the Amritsar Municipal Corporation (AMC) said no permission was granted to hold Dussehra celebrations at ‘Dhobi ghat’ ground here. “Nobody was given permission for organising the Dussehra event. Moreover, nobody had applied for the permission with the Amritsar Municipal Corporation,” AMC commissioner Sonali Giri said.
She said the celebrations were held at the ‘Dhobi ghat’ ground in the past also but unlike last year, the event was held on a large scale on Friday evening.
Opposition parties, including Akali Dal, BJP and AAP, have demanded strict action against those who gave permission for holding the event.