The minister said drivers are given specific instructions on where to slow down the train. The railway crossing gates were closed and the crossing was manned. The residents have been protesting and blocking railway tracks since the train tragedy on Friday night that claimed 61 lives, PTI reported. At least 60 people were admitted to hospital with injuries.
The driver, Arvind Kumar, in a statement to the Railways administration said he had applied the emergency breaks, but since a large group of people started pelting stones on the train, he chose to proceed, The Indian Express reported on Sunday.
The Jalandhar-Amritsar express was hurtling at 90 kilometers (55 miles) per hour when it hit scores of people who had gathered on the tracks late Friday to get a view of a firework-packed effigy of the demon king Ravana for a Hindu festival. He also said that if the driver had applied emergency brakes, there could have been a bigger tragedy.
"Near the accident site, there is a railway barrier which is manned by a gateman".
Eyewitnesses said the Amritsar-Howrah train had crossed the spot minutes earlier.
Amit Singh, the gate-keeper at the level crossing, said that no permission had been sought for the event.
But federal junior minister for Indian Railways ruled out any punitive action against his staff, including the driver, saying the national carrier was not at fault.
Doctors at the Civil Hospital said that the death toll could rise as some of the injured were critical. One account said two trains arrived from the opposite direction at the same time giving little opportunity to people to escape.
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Northern Railways spokesperson Deepak Kumar said in a statement that the event was organised in an area which does not belong to the railways.
But the dhobi ghat of the posh Golden Avenue colony that lies beside the railway track can not accommodate even 500 people.
The Prime Minister also announced ₹2 lakh compensation each to the families of the dead and ₹50,000 each to the injured.
"At midsections, trains run at their assigned speed and people are not expected to be on the tracks".
After he enacted the role of Ravana, Dalbir Singh, in his 20s, was watching the burning of an effigy from the tracks when he, along with 58 others, was run over by a train.
"From a distance of 300 metres, he can see LED lights installed at the event and people were making videos of the event with their mobile phones", he said. Police brought them under control and placed the neighbourhood under guard. There was no lapse on our part and no action against the driver will be initiated.