30 Seconds Before Train Ran Over 60 In Punjab, Another Passed By Slowly


The train accident in Amritsar was caught on videos by eye-witnesses on cellphones.

Amritsar: 

Barely 30 seconds before a train ran over 60 people celebrating Dussehra in Amritsar on Friday evening, another train had passed by from the opposite direction, slowly. The first train had started from the Amritsar railway station, about two kilometres from the accident site and was headed to Howrah in West Bengal. The second train, which was much faster, was headed from Jalandhar to its final destination, Amritsar.

Hundreds had gathered for Dussehra celebrations and were standing on the railway tracks at Jaura Phatak, which was on higher ground, giving a better view of the burning effigy of Ravan.

A mobile phone video, shot by one of the hundreds watching the celebrations from the tracks, shows the first train cross right before the Ravana effigy was lit. Seconds after the fireworks went off, a section of the crowd retreated towards the tracks, where a large number of people were already standing to watch the celebrations. The train coming from the opposite direction this time, ran them over. The people who were hit could not hear the train’s siren due to the exploding crackers. Those who did see the train coming, were not able to react in time.

Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani, who visited the accident site this morning, has dismissed the railways’ responsibility in the tragedy and said they were not intimidated about the Dussehra event. Locals, however, claim that the event had been taking place at the same spot, barely 100 metres from the tracks, for the last two decades, except last year.

Mr Lohani said the Jalandhar-Amritsar Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) passenger train that ran over the crowd was running at its assigned speed and its driver had applied brakes to slow it down.

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Ravana effigy was being burnt less than 100 metres from the railway track. (AFP)

“Trains run at their assigned speed and people are not expected to go on the tracks. It was a clear case of trespassing. There was no intimation to the railways regarding this (Dussehra) event adjoining the railway track,” Mr Lohani told reporters, according to news agency IANS.

Mr Lohani said the accident site falls under the “mid-section of the two stations” where the trains run at their “assigned speed” as per the condition of the track.

“The place where the accident happened was basically mid-section between two stations — Mananwala and Amritsar and not at a level crossing,” the Railway Board Chairman said.

According to a senior railway official, the incident happened some 340 metres from an interlocked level crossing of the railways.

Mr Lohani also said that the railway posts its staff at the manned level crossing to regulate the road traffic and nod at the mid-sections of the railway track between two stations.

When asked about the responsibility of the driver, Mr Lohani said, “Our initial report suggest that the loco-pilot applied the brakes and the speed came down from 90 kmph to around 60-65 kmph. We are still looking at the speedometer charts.”

Following the accident, the railways cancelled 37 trains, diverted 16 trains, short terminated 12 trains and short originated six trains on the route.





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On Day 4 Since Sabarimala Opened, Cops On Alert, Protesters Lie In Wait


Pamba/New Delhi: 

Hundreds of policemen in riot gear have been deployed at the base camps near the Sabarimala temple and an equal number of protesting devotees are lying in wait to prevent women of menstruating age from entering the shrine to Lord Ayyappa nestled in the Western Ghats.

Today is the fourth day since the temple was opened after the Supreme Court last month overturned a centuries-old ban on women between 10 and 50 years entering Sabarimala.

No woman below 50 has made it to the temple; none has turned up at the base camp so far today.

A woman was allowed to walk to the temple after the authorities at Pamba base camp verified her age to be 52. Trichy resident Latha showed was allowed to go after she showed her identity papers with her date of birth mentioned in it.

On Friday, two under-50 women almost walked to history but had to turn back 500 metres from the temple’s 18 golden steps that lead to the shrine after protesting devotees blocked them. The temple’s priests also threatened to close the shrine if the two women somehow managed to enter the compound. A third woman who did not ask for police protection did not even start the climb and went back.

A court will today hear the bail plea of activist Rahul Easwar, who was arrested on Wednesday for allegedly attacking some women at the Nilakkal base camp. He has denied the allegations.

Women reporters were attacked, their vehicles vandalised and stones were thrown at them on Wednesday when the temple reopened. A day later two reporters of The New York Times were forced to turn back from the 5-km trek to the temple.

Kerala Inspector General S Sreejith, who on Friday led the police team that formed a protective ring around the two women, Hyderabad journalist Kavitha Thakkal and Kochi resident Rehana Fatima, said the police will provide all the protection devotees need to trek up to the temple. “… But darshan is something which can be done with consent of the priest. We will give them whatever protection they want,” Mr Sreejith said.





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European-Japanese Space Mission BepiColombo To Mercury Launched To Explore Origin Of Solar System


Unmanned European-Japanese space mission, BepiColombo, blasted off today morning from French Guiana.

Paris: 

Is Mercury’s core liquid or solid, and why — on the smallest planet in our solar system — is it so big? What can the planet closest to the Sun tell us about how our solar system came into being?

An unmanned European-Japanese space mission, dubbed BepiColombo, blasted off early Saturday morning from French Guiana, to probe these and other mysteries.

“BepiColombo is coming like a white knight with better and more precise data,” said Alain Doressoundiram, an astronomer at the Paris Observatory.

“To understand how Earth was formed, we need to understand how all rocky planets formed,” including Venus and Mars, he told AFP.

“Mercury stands apart and we don’t know why.”

First, however, the suite of instruments on board the Ariane 5 rocket will have to travel seven years and nine million kilometres (5.6 million miles) to reach their destination.

In a statement after the launch, ArianeGroup said the satellite had successfully escaped Earth’s gravity field and was beginning its long journey where it will reach speeds of up to 40,000 kilometres (25,000 miles) an hour.

According to Pierre Bousquet, an engineer at France’s National Centre for Space Research and head of the French team contributing to the mission, Mercury is “abnormally small,” leading to speculation that it survived a massive collision in its youth.

“A huge crater visible on its surface could be the scar left over from that encounter,” Bousquet told AFP. Finding out if this is true is on BepiColombo’s “to do” list.

Going hot and cold
This scenario would explain why Mercury’s core accounts for a whopping 55 percent of its mass, compared to 30 percent for Earth.

Mercury is also the only rocky planet orbiting the Sun beside our own to have a magnetic field.

Magnetic fields are generated by a liquid core but given its size, Mercury’s should have grown cold and solid by now, as did Mars.

This anomaly might be due to some feature of the core’s composition, something BepiColombo’s instruments will measure with much greater precision than has been possible so far.

On its surface, Mercury is a planet of extremes, vacillating between hot days of about 430 degrees Celsius (more than 800 degrees Fahrenheit) to super-frosty nights of minus 180C (minus 290F).

Those days and nights last nearly three Earth months each.

Earlier missions have detected evidence of ice in the deepest recesses of the planet’s polar craters.

Scientists speculate that this may have accumulated from comets crashing onto Mercury’s surface.

“If the presence of ice is confirmed, it means that some of those water samples date back nearly to the origin of the solar system,” Doressoundiram said.

Lashed by solar winds
Mercury is 58 million kilometres (36 million miles) from the Sun, nearly three times closer than Earth.

“The planet is whipped by solar winds,” a constant torrent of ionised particles bombarding the surface at 500 kilometres per second, said Bousquet.

The scientists will be able to study the impact of these winds — 10 times stronger than the ones hitting Earth’s atmosphere — on Mercury’s magnetic field.

The BepiColombo mission will deploy two spacecraft. The Mercury Planet Orbiter, built by ESA, will investigate planet’s surface and interior composition.

The Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter, made by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, will study the region of space around the planet that is influenced by its magnetic field.

The mission will also look for tectonic activity, and seek to understand why spectroscopic observations show no iron even if it is thought to be one of the planet’s major component elements.

Compared to Mars, Venus, and Saturn, Mercury has barely been explored. Only two spacecraft have ever paid it a visit.

NASA’s Mariner 10 did three flybys in 1974 and 1975, providing the first up-close images. More than 30 years later, NASA’s Messenger did the same, before settling into orbit around Mercury in 2011.

The new mission is named after Giuseppe (Bepi) Colombo, a brilliant Italian mathematician and engineer who first understood the relationship between Mercury’s rotation and orbit.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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At Sabarimala, 9-Year-Old Girl With Placard Saying She Will Again Visit The Temple After She Is 50


9-year-old girl holds placard at Sabarimala, says she won’t visit temple until she is over 50

Sabarimala, Kerala: 

A nine-year-old girl at Sabarimala grabbed attention after she was seen with a placard, which read she will again visit the temple after she crosses 50. Janani, who comes from Madurai in Tamil Nadu, visited the temple with her parents on Friday.

“We don’t know what the Supreme Court said. I feel that once my daughter completes 10 years of age, she will wait till 50 and then come to visit Lord Ayyappa. We love our Ayyappa,” said Janani’s father R Satish Kumar, adding that “he won’t like it” if his daughter visits Sabarimala before she is 50.

A veil of tension enveloped the temple town on Friday after two women, surrounded by policemen, walked the 5-kilometre track from the base camp at Pamba to Sannidhanam, to reach the 18 holy steps that take devotees to the inner temple compound. They had to return after hours of standoff, as the head priest and 30 other temple employees, sat on the steps and clapped and sang Ayyappa songs to block the entry of the two women. The head priest also threatened to shut the temple and stop puja if the women entered.

In a letter, the Pandalam Palace Trust last evening wrote to the Sabarimala shrine administrators, asking them to shut down the temple if any ritual was broken. The Trust belongs to the Pandalam royal family of Kerala, which is historically known for its kinship with Ayyappa.

The letter said that if anything happens at the temple against the rituals, it must be shut down. The temple should be re-opened only after the tanthri cleanses the shrine, the letter said. The Pandalam Royal family had earlier said that if all women are allowed to enter the temple then Lord Ayyappa would curse devotees.

The Supreme Court in a landmark verdict on September 28, said women of menstruating age can’t be barred from going to the temple and instructed the authorities to ensure that nobody was discriminated against.





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“Mission Atal” Mountaineers Scale Peaks To Be Named After Atal Bihari Vajpayee


The two peaks, to be named Atal-1 and Atal-2, are at heights of 6,557 and 6,566 metres (Representational)

Uttarkashi: 

A mountaineering expedition to two virgin peaks in Gangotri glacier, which are to be named after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, successfully concluded with two teams scaling the peaks.

The team of mountaineers hoisted the tricolour on four peaks, Nehru Institute of Mountaineering principal Colonel Amit Bisht said.

The team will return to Uttarkashi on Sunday when details of the records set during the expedition will be shared with the media, he said.

The joint expedition named “Mission Atal” undertaken by teams from Uttarakhand Tourism Development Council and Nehru Institute of Mountaineering was flagged off by Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat from Dehradun on October 4.

The two peaks, to be named Atal-1 and Atal-2, are at heights of 6,557 and 6,566 metres.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, 93, died at All India Institute of Medical Sciences hospital in Delhi on August 16 after a prolonged illness.





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People Ignored Closed Level-Crossing, Says Railways On Punjab Tragedy


Railways officials also said they were unlikely to compensate the family of the dead

New Delhi: 

The gathering of people close to tracks near Amritsar where a train mowed down Dussehra revellers was a “clear case of trespassing” and no permission for the event had been given by the railways, a senior official told PTI.

Seeking to shift the blame for the tragedy on the Amritsar administration, official sources said the local authorities were aware about the Dussehra programme and that it was attended a senior minister’s wife.

“We’re not kept in the loop and we provided no permission for the event. It is a clear case of trespassing and the local administration should take responsibility,” the railway official said.

Amid questions being raised in some quarters about why the train did not stop despite such a large crowd being there, the official said, “There was so much smoke that the driver was unable to see anything and he was also negotiating a curve.”

“However, railways’ entire machinery is at the spot and we are cooperating with local administration is rescue and relief operations,” the official added.

Medical teams have been rushed to the site of the accident in which at least 60 people, including women and children, died and 72 were injured after the train coming from Jalandhar to Amritsar ran over a crowd standing across the tracks to watch the Dussehra celebration.

Minster of State Manoj Sinha, Chairman Railway Board Ashwani Lohani and top officials left Delhi tonight. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, who is in the US, is returning back home.

“As per initial information, people present near the railway track couldn’t hear the sound of the approaching train due bursting crackers,” Mr Sinha told reporters in Delhi before boarding an Indian Air Force plane for Amritsar.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved Rs 2 lakh for the family of the dead and Rs 50,000 for the injured.

Railways has also issued helpline numbers- 0183-2223171, 0183-2564485.

Railways officials also said they were unlikely to compensate the family of the dead as they were not passengers. “Any information on the dead and injured has to come from the district magistrate, not us. We are cooperating with them at all levels,” the senior official said.

The accident comes days after five people died and around 35 injured after five coaches and the engine of the New Farakka Express (Train No. 14003) derailed near Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh on October 12.





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Body Of Ola Cab Driver With Head Injuries Found In Rajasthan


Police found that the driver had taken an offline booking. (Representational)

Kota: 

The body of a 23-year-old Ola cab driver was found with head injuries at an agricultural field near Gopalpura village in Kota, the police said today.

The dead man was identified as Shaharukh Hussain, a resident of Jagpura area in Kota city.

According to the police, the cab was found parked near the Shivpuridham temple in Thegra area which comes under the jurisdiction of Udhyog Nagar police station.

During interrogation, it was found that Hussain had taken an offline booking for Kanwas town on Tuesday, they said.

The brother of the dead driver, Saddam Hussain, told the police that Shaharukh had left his home on Wednesday morning.

When Shaharukh did not return home till late Wednesday night, his family members informed the police on Thursday. “Some suspects have been rounded up and a probe is underway. However, no one has been arrested so far,” SP (rural) Rajiv Pachar said.





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People Seen Clicking Selfies When Train Ran Over Crowd In Amritsar


Video footage of the accidents showed several mobile phones flashing from across tracks.

Amritsar: 

As scores of Dussehra revellers watching the burning of Ravana effigy were mowed down by a passing train near Amritsar, the disturbing video footage of the accident showed many across the railway tracks filming the celebrations on their mobile phones when the tragedy struck.

At least 60 people died and many more injured in the accident between Manawala and Ferozpur stations near Amritsar, when the train ran through the crowd that had assembled across the tracks to watch the Dussehra event.

Punjab minister Navjot Sidhu’s wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu, who was the chief guest at the programme, later said nobody knew how the accident happened as people were enjoying and also taking selfies standing on the tracks.

Many, including political leaders, took to Twitter to express dismay over the selfie culture during such tragic incidents.

“What a mindless & entirely avoidable tragedy! Watching this video you’d be hard pressed to imagine the scale of the tragedy considering the way people are nonchalantly filming away on their phones even after the train has run over people!,” former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted.

Aam Aadmi Party leader Preeti Sharma Menon tweeted, it was so unbelievable that the train ran over the crowd “and they continued filming”.

Video footage of the accident on television channels showed several mobile phones flashing from across the tracks when the horrific accident occurred.

During several other tragedies in the past, people were seen taking selfies, which has been criticised by many as apathy and disrespectful towards the victims. 

 





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Government Schools In Jammu And Kashmir Get Legal Literacy Clubs


The move aims to educate and empower students about the legal rights. (Representational)

Jammu: 

Two legal literacy clubs were inaugurated in the government schools of Jammu and Kashmir’s Udhampur district today to educate students about the legal rights, the official said.

Under the supervision of Principal district and sessions Judge K S Parihar, the clubs were inaugurated at Government Model Girls Higher Secondary School and Government Model Boys, Higher Secondary School at Udhampur, he said.

Chief Judicial Magistrate Balbir Lal Jaswal inaugurated the clubs, formed under the aegis of National Legal Services Authority, with an aim to educate and empower students about the legal rights and give them a medium to highlight their grievances.

Retainer lawyers Brijesh Kumar and Pankaj Mangotra were also present on the occasion.





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Days After Being Given Key AAP Role, Rajpal Solanki Resigns


The Aam Aadmi Party had named seven Loksabha incharges.

New Delhi: 

Rajpal Solanki, West Delhi in-charge of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Thursday resigned from the post citing health reasons, just four days after assuming charge, the party said.

On Wednesday, Mr Solanki skipped a crucial party meeting in Vikaspuri. Later, he said in a letter that he had suffered cardiac arrest on Tuesday.

It was the widely held view that Mr Solanki would be the party’s Lok Sabha candidate from West Delhi. Though the party is yet to declare candidates for the general elections, it is believed that in-charges of the constituencies would contest the polls from those seats.

The AAP had announced appointment of Mr Solanki, who runs several educational institutes, as the party in-charge of West Delhi Lok Sabha constituency on Sunday. His announcement had come as a surprise to many within the party because Mr Solanki was not associated with the AAP.

Two AAP leaders said Mr Solanki skipped a crucial party meeting in West Delhi citing health issues. One of them said, “The BJP could be pressuring Solanki not to contest the polls.”

“The development has embarrassed the AAP, and it is a lesson for the party which should preference to insiders over outsiders,” said another party leader.

Besides Mr Solanki, the AAP has announced Atishi Marlena (East Delhi), Raghav Chadha (South Delhi), Brijesh Goyal (New Delhi), Ghuggan Singh (Northwest Delhi) Northeast Delhi (Pankaj Gupta) as constituency in-charge for seven Lok Sabha seats.

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