Train rooftop accident toll 17, blame game on


Lucknow : Three more youths succumbed to their injuries in the train rooftop accident in Uttar Pradesh, taking the death toll to 17, officials said Wednesday. The authorities continue to pass the buck over why hundreds of youths were allowed to sit atop a train, which led to the victims being crushed by an overbridge.

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The accident occurred at Shajahanpur Tuesday and the victims were youths who had assembled in nearby Bareilly for a recruitment drive of the paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).

Three of the 14 injured have died, taking the casualties to 17.

“While one of them died while being taken to Lucknow for specialised treatment, two others succumbed to their injuries later in the night,” said Shahjahanpur district magistrate Ajay Chauhan.

Fourteen had died Tuesday afternoon, when they were sitting atop a train and crashed head on into an overbridge at Shahjahanpur. The superfast Jammu-Howrah Himgiri Express was passing under the bridge with hundreds of the youths perched on its rooftop. Shahjahanpur is barely 60 km from Bareilly.

“Apparently, while some of the rooftop riders managed to save themselves by lying down flat, some jumped down in panic, others just went crashing into the bridge,” the district magistrate said.

Much confusion had preceded the accident when the ITBP chose to cancel the recruitment, following which an estimated 100,000 aspirants, who had converged at Bareilly from 11 different states for barely 416 jobs that were thrown open, went on the rampage.

Alleging irregularities and mismanagement in the drive, the youth targeted bus stations, petrol pumps and other public property. Around six state-owned buses and several other vehicles were set on fire and several shops were damaged and looted by them.

The Uttar Pradesh government was quick to blame it all on the ITBP. “We were never informed about the magnitude of the recruitment rally, otherwise we would have made necessary arrangements,” Bareilly District Magistrate Anil Garg told reporters there.

Contradicting the state government’s claim, union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said: “Despite ITBP’s clear cut intimation, Uttar Pradesh government failed to make suitable arrangements.”

The railway authorities conveniently washed their hands off the whole affair saying they were kept out of the loop and no one cared to inform them that such a massive recruitment rally was taking place in Bareilly.

“The railway staff were taken by surprise when they found the station swarmed by thousands of young men, who looked very agitated,” a senior railway official told IANS on condition of anonymity from Bareilly.

“We promptly got the railway police into action, but the station was jampacked with these young men who went about damaging railway property while raising anti-ITBP slogans,” he said.

“No sooner did the Himgiri Express roll into the station than a large group climbed over it, clutching on to all sides of the train, including the rooftop and the engine. There was no way the youth could have been prevented from crowding the train and no one realised that barely 60 km ahead they would fatally encounter a low overbridge,” the official added.