'Piyush Goyal is the chief and it is always the chief who is considered to be responsible.'
Haldwani, Uttarakhand-based Right to Information activist Gurvinder Singh Chadha has been fighting a crusade against unmanned level crossings in India for the last seven years.
On Friday night, he spoke to Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com about the accident in Amritsar in which more than 50 people were killed while watching the Ravan Dahan ceremony standing on railway tracks and were mowed by a speeding train.
Your first reaction to this accident.
By sheer coincidence I am at the same place, Amritsar, where this tragic incident has happened. The people are very angry and agitated.
All trains are now halted on the Amritsar route. Some are halted in Ludhiana and Jalandhar.
I think the death toll will be much more than 50 even as I am approaching a hospital now to donate blood to the injured victims.
Would you blame the motorman for this tragedy?
There is no mistake of the engine driver in this accident because when the Ravan effigy was burnt there were some people standing close to it.
The sparks of the Ravan effigy started falling on the ground and people started running helter-skelter, to the left and right side of the tracks.
The driver did press the horn, but the noise of firecrackers was so loud and therefore people could not hear it and did not move out of the tracks in time.
What could the railways have done differently to prevent such a tragedy?
I feel such gatherings must not be allowed near railway crossings and tracks.
The railways, as a precautionary measure, if it had posted RPF (Railway Protection Force) officers (at the site), then many lives would have been saved.
So in that sense, on moral grounds Railway Minister Piyush Goyal must resign.
This is what our earlier railway ministers used to do. When Lal Bahadur Shastri could resign as railway minister in the 1950s because of one rail accident, why not Piyush Goyal now? It is his moral duty.
But what can Railway Minister Goyal do when the event was being held on a ground which was close to the railway tracks, he is not even in the country?
Piyush Goyal is the chief and it is always the chief who is considered to be responsible.
But now let us wait and see gaaj kis par padhti hai (who gets punished). Right now there is too much of sadness at this place.
We spoke about such accidents in April. After that did the government or railway ministry take any steps to prevent accidents at railway crossings?
Nothing, they have done zilch.
I again filed an RTI plea on this issue to apply pressure on them so that they do something.
There are hundreds of railway crossings in India alongside which similar functions must be held routinely. Don't you think the event organisers must be held responsible?
In this case, the role of the railways, local administration and organisers -- all three are to be blamed.
But the railway ministry is responsible. The lineman had to inform the seniors in advance that some kind of function was taking place near the railway tracks.
So somewhere some mistake has taken place on the railways's part.