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Over Rs 50,000 Crore Spent on Rail Safety till August 31

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A Passenger Train in India. Wikimedia
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New Delhi, October 24: The government on Tuesday said it has spent over Rs 50,000 crore out of a total outlay of Rs 1.31 lakh crore on rail safety in this fiscal.

The government has planned a capital expenditure outlay of Rs 131,000 crore for railway safety in 2017-18, of which it spent Rs 50,762 crore till August 31, Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa told reporters after a Union Cabinet meeting.

The government in its Budget this year announced a special safety fund of Rs 1.31 lakh crore for Indian Railways.

Lavasa said the pace of laying new railway tracks had been hastened from 380 km in 2014-15 to 953 km in 2016-17. (IANS)

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The Families Of Victims In Railway Accident Incident In India Stage Protests

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the accident a "heart-wrenching tragedy" and asked officials to provide immediate assistance to the injured.

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People gather at the site of an accident after a train traveling at high speed ploughed through a crowd of people on rail tracks near Amritsar, India. VOA

Angry relatives of the scores of people who were killed in India when they were run over by a speeding train staged protests Saturday while one of the country’s railway officials maintains the railway is not responsible for the tragic accident.

The train was traveling at high speed when it ploughed through a crowd Friday at a religious festival on the outskirts of the northern city of Amritsar, killing 59 people, Punjab state’s Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, told reporters Saturday. Singh said 57 others were injured and an official investigation would be carried out over the next four weeks.

The Jalandhar-Amritsar express was traveling at 90 kilometers per hour when it hit the crowd, which had gathered on the tracks to watch a fireworks display marking the Hindu festival of Dussehra.

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The Hindu festival of Dussehra.

Hundreds of relatives of the victims engaged in sporadic protests on and near the tracks Saturday, calling for action against local authorities and the train operator, who was questioned Saturday by police.

Authorities moved the protestors off the tracks and brought in reinforcements to control the crowd.

‘No lapse on our part’

The railway accident was India’s worst in years, but the junior minister who manages Indian Railways, the world’s fourth largest rail system, refused to accept responsibility.

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A man mourns next to the burning pyre of a family member who died after a train traveling at high speed ploughed through a crowd of people, at a cremation site in Amritsar, India. VOA

“Railways cannot be blamed. Railways were not informed about the ceremony,” Manoj Sinha told reporters Saturday. Speaking to reporters, Sinha ruled out any punitive action against his staff, saying, “There was no lapse on our part and no action against the driver will be initiated.”

Local government officials said the festival takes place every year on the outskirts of Amritsar and that railroad authorities are alerted to run the trains at slow speeds.

Witnesses said the victims did not realize the train was coming because of the sound of the fireworks and celebrations.

‘Heart-wrenching’

Some witnesses said the train did not sound its whistle as it sped past the festival site.

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With India, Indian Railway is also digitizing, Pixels

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the accident a “heart-wrenching tragedy” and asked officials to provide immediate assistance to the injured.

Also Read: India Continues Engaging With USA Over H-1B Passport Issue

India’s railway network remains the main form of travel in the vast country, where railway accidents are relatively common.

Millions of Hindus celebrate the Dussehra festival by burning giant effigies of the demon Ravana, symbolizing the triumph of good over evil. (VOA)