The death toll in Sunday’s stampede at Allahabad station rose to 36 but even after 24 hours there was no clarity on what led to the tragedy on one of the biggest days of the Kumbh as the Centre and the state government traded blame.
While two probes — one by the Centre and the other by the Uttar Pradesh government — were ordered, at least three contradictory theories were put out on what caused the accident.
The railing of a footbridge handrail collapsed, sending pilgrims down the stairs, UP home secretary JP Gupta and IG (law and order) BP Singh quoted eyewitnesses as saying. There were claims that some pilgrims slipped, creating panic and possibly a stampede, they added.
A third reason, too, was given. Police deployed on the platform cane-charged the pilgrims, leading to the mishap — the railways too had initially claimed the same. “We have no idea what exactly happened. The presence of a large number of people could have been the reason,” Gupta said.
Owning moral responsibility, Uttar Pradesh’s urban development minister Azam Khan quit as the Kumbh Mela in-charge, while railway minister PK Bansal ordered a probe into the crush on the busiest day of the world’s largest religious festival which saw 30 million take a dip at the Sangam.
Rescue personnel extending all possible help to the the injured after a stampade in Allahabad railway station on Sunday. UNI PHOTO
It was not possible to run trains every 10 minutes to clear the heavy rush of devotees, Bansal said in response to the charge that the railways was ill-prepared. “Altogether, 12,000 trains run on Indian Railways’ 65,000-km-long route system, carrying 2.3 crore passengers a day,” Bansal said.
So there are limitations to carrying crores of passengers on any given day," Bansal, who reached Allahabad Monday, added.
“It was well known that 3 crore passengers would descend on the day. What happened to the “crowd-control management” training of the railways,” a central government official said.
Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav said he did not want to say who was responsible. “You know better,” he told journalists. Bansal said statements blaming the railways were baseless.