Anger engulfs meerut | india | Hindustan Times
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Anger engulfs meerut

CHIEF MINISTER Mulayam Singh Yadav ran into a furious Meerut on Tuesday. He had to leave Victoria Park ?where over 100 people were killed in a fire the previous evening ? barely five minutes after he reached there for an on-the-spot assessment.An angry crowd heckled the Chief Minister and shouted slogans against him for the administration?s failure in handling the relief operations. The mob thrashed party?s state executive committee member Abbass and two other leaders when they tried to stop them from raising anti-CM slogans.

india Updated: Apr 12, 2006 01:13 IST
S. Raju

CHIEF MINISTER Mulayam Singh Yadav ran into a furious Meerut on Tuesday. He had to leave Victoria Park —where over 100 people were killed in a fire the previous evening — barely five minutes after he reached there for an on-the-spot assessment.

An angry crowd heckled the Chief Minister and shouted slogans against him for the administration’s failure in handling the relief operations. The mob thrashed party’s state executive committee member Abbass and two other leaders when they tried to stop them from raising anti-CM slogans. The CM barely spent five minutes at the spot and then hurriedly left towards the circuit house. The angry mob, however, tried to block the way of his cavalcade. The crowd climbed upon the bonnet of the cars and expressed their anguish by hitting their windowpanes.

Later addressing a press conference, Yadav announced a judicial enquiry into the incident. “I will write to the Chief Justice of the High Court to nominate a judge for the inquiry,” he said. “The incident has shaken the entire state”, he said. However as regards organizing such fairs, the CM said before giving the approval proper inspection should be done to ensure the safety and security of the visitors.

On Tuesday, there were enough indications to suggest that the organisers of the trade fair at Victoria Park had not taken enough precautions. Chief Fire Officer Arun Chaturvedi said no permission was taken from his department. “There was no fire exit and enclosures were erected adjacent to each other, which is a violation of fire safety norms,” he said.    

Had there been a 15-m gap between the enclosures, the fire would not have spread to all three enclosures, he said. An FIR has been lodged against three organisers of the fair for culpable homicide. The fair was organised under the banner of Mrinal Events and its owner, Lakhan Tomar, is absconding.        

Meanwhile, politicians have started cashing in on the devastating fire. Most of Tuesday in fact saw politicians making a beeline to the spot. A few of them levelled charges against the government for concealing the actual number of casualties in the mishap.

While addressing a press conference, Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav also talked on official line saying 30 people had died and that 20 bodies had been identified. Obviously there were very few takers of this version of the chief minister, who was at one point roughed up by an angry mob on his arrival at Victoria Park.

According to the eyewitnesses and those who did the rescue work, the toll should run into hundreds. Arif Choudhary, who had a stall of health equipments inside the fair claimed that more than 2000 people were inside the enclosures when fire broke out. There were 130 different stalls of household items— electronics, furniture, health, telecom etc. Companies which displayed their products placed at least two or three staff on each stall. It was in addition to the staff hired by the organisers for maintenance and taking care of the visitors..

The fair was first of its kind thus attracted heavy influx of local residents, most of them belonging to well- to-do families. Since it was the last day of the four day long fair, a massive crowd turned up there.

Initially the officials said more than 50 people died in the fire. But later they reduced it to 31. While visiting the spot, BSP Chief Mayawati also charged the administration of concealing the actual number of causalities. She demanded a CBI inquiry.

City MLA Luxmikant Bajpayee and Cantt MLA Saryaprakash Aggarwal also accused the administration of misleading people on actual number of deaths. “Several people are missing and their family members are searching for them,” said Bajpayee.

Mohd Abid of Hapur road claimed that he saw trucks of PAC, army and ambulances taking away many charred bodies from the spot. Locals believed the devastating fire had taken more than two hundred lives. Citing the examples of many families like the owner of London sports and PA to sales tax commissioner, they said that they were left with none even to weep on their dead bodies.
People are also questioning the need of using JCB machines barely two hours after the incident to remove the debris from the gutted enclosures. They fear that many charred bodies of children and women might have gone along with the debris.