One year of Amritsar train tragedy: ‘Give us jobs or we will die of hunger’

Kamaldeep Singh Brar
Radha and Preeti, who lost their husbands in the tragedy, in Amritsar Tuesday. (Express photo by Rana Simranjit Singh)

Radha has came all the way from Uttar Pradesh to join a protest to seek justice and jobs for families who lost their loves ones in the Amritsar train tragedy on Dussehra last year. Radha lost her husband, Budh Ram, who worked in the city as a labourer, in the accident. Her sister, Preeti, who was injured, lost her husband Dinesh Kumar (30), a plumber, and her nine-year-old son, Abhishek.

Budhram and Dinehsh worked in the city. While Preeti too lived in Amritsar with her two sons, Radha had joined them, along with two out of her six children, for Dussehra last year.

“We were so happy. We had specially come to Amritsar to enjoy the festival...My family and my sister’s family all had booked train tickets to visit Mata Vaishno Devi on October 20 to give thanks for the birth of my sixth child and only son. Both families had planned to spend Dussehra evening together,” said Radha.

Read | Victims’ families protest near railway track 

Eight members of both families were at the Dussehra event at Dhobi Ghat, where Navjot Kaur Sidhu was chief guest.

“The last thing I remember was crackers going off and the effigy burning. After that I found myself in hospital,” said Radha, who was in the hospital for nearly two months and is still getting treatment for the injuries.

Preeti too was injured in the accident and was bed-ridden for months. In the meantime, her brother-in-law, Rakesh, allegedly opened a joint account with her and siphoned off Rs 1.5 lakh given as government compensation. Later, on her complaint, the account was frozen and a case registered against Rakesh.

“Police told me to find him. How can I find him. It is the job of the police. Bank is not ready to release the money until the case is over. I have made many rounds to the office of Deputy Commissioner and house of Navjot Singh Sidhu. But no one is listening to me,” said Preeti.

She added, “I only got Rs 2 lakh compensation from the Union government. I didn’t get a single penny from the state government. I am living on rent. I have a three-year-old son to feed. I can’t go anywhere to do labour leaving behind my son....I had come to Amritsar after my marriage around 12 years ago. My husband earned well. He was a plumber and he never made me work. But the accident changed everything. I am ready to work for my son. But government is not giving us the jobs promised after the accident.”

Preeti said that her in-laws, who are in Sultanpur, have ended all relations with her after the death of her husband.

She said, “I am living here alone with my son. My compensation amount is going into room rent and raising my son. How long it would last? I don’t know.”

Radha has five daughters and one son to feed. Both Preeti and Radha are still getting treatment for the injuries caused in accident.

“I often come to Amritsar to join protests and visit DC officer or ministers. Please give me a job. Or we all will die of hunger...We both have been spending lakhs on our treatment from the compensation. The money is not going to last. We hope that government will give us jobs. Otherwise we have no hope to live,” said Radha.