Under attack from the opposition, Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has said trains usually run at a much slower speed in the Joda Phatak area of Amritsar than the one that mowed down 61 people standing on the track to watch a Ravan effigy burn during Dussehra last Friday.
The Congress leader said he would take up the "responsibilities" of the families who lost their loved ones and fund the education of children orphaned by the accident.
Mr Sindhu is facing flak as his wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu was chief guest at the function and allegedly left the venue soon after the mishap took place. The opposition has also accused the couple of protecting Saurabh Madaan Mitthu -- the main organiser of the event and the son of local Congress leader Vijay Madaan.
At a press conference on Monday, Mr Sidhu cited a video on his phone that showed people crossing a railway track as a slow-moving train almost halts on tracks. "This is how the trains pass through the area. This is Joda Phatak," Mr Sidhu said, yet again questioning the Railways for exonerating the driver.
"How can the Railways give a clean chit to its driver and other staff without even conducting a probe? Why was the train hurtling down at such a great speed? Why didn't the gateman inform the train driver that hundreds of people were standing on the tracks and tell him to slow down?" Mr Sidhu questioned.
The Railways maintained the driver was not at fault and the people standing on the track were trespassing. It also said the driver managed to bring down the speed of the train from around 91 km/hour to 68 km/hour -- a claim Mr Sidhu contested.
Mr Sidhu said his wife was attending to the victims of the accident when "allegations were raised against her".
The Shiromani Akali Dal has demanded Mr Sidhu's dismissal from Punjab government and filing a murder case against his wife. The party has accused the organisers of "criminal negligence". It has also dismissed the magisterial probe ordered by the state government as a "tailor-made inquiry".
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