Authorities face tough questions on Allahabad stampede
A day after the stampede at the overcrowded Allahabad railway station claimed 37 lives, including 29 women, 7 men and a baby girl, concerned authorities faced tough questions and promised a probe to fix the blame.india Updated: Feb 12, 2013 08:13 IST
Officials have promised a probe to fix blame for the stampede at Allahabad railway station on Sunday which left at least 37 people dead after the main day of the Kumbh Mela religious festival.
As many as 29 women, 7 men and a baby girl died in the stampede. As many as 39 people were injured, said Uttar Pradesh government's chief secretary Jawed Usmani. People thronged to the main hospital in Allahabad to see if their relatives were among the dead and injured in the stampede at the city's train station. Here are the latest developments after the stampede:
Witnesses blame police action
"We heard an announcement that our train is coming on platform number 4 and when we started moving toward that platform through a footbridge, we were stopped. Then suddenly the police charged us with batons and the stampede started," passenger Shushanto Kumar Sen said. "People started tumbling over one another and within no time I saw people, particularly women and children, being trampled over by others," Sen told the Associated Press.
Police denied they had used batons to control the crowd. "It was simply a case of overcrowding. People were in a hurry to go back and there were not enough arrangements by the railway authorities," said Arun Kumar, a senior police officer.
The crowding at the station was just as bad Monday, with tens of thousands waiting to catch trains home. "We just want to get out of here. But the trains are delayed," said Sunita Devi, a middle-aged woman from Bihar.
Railway ministry orders probe, gets flak
Rail Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said an inquiry has been ordered into what led to the stampede. He said the railway station saw huge crowds of people wishing to return home after prayers on the river banks. "There were just too many people on the platforms," Bansal told reporters.
Bansal announced a Rs one lakh as compensation for the families of each of those killed in the stampede. He was asked whether railways was prepared to handle the rush of 3 crore passengers in a day at Kumbh fair. "Even if we want to run trains after every 10 minutes we cannot do that because there has to be a minimum gap between two stations and safety of passengers who have boarded the trains is also equally important for us. Trains cannot run like vehicles run on roads," Bansal said.
"We have announced Rs. 1 lakh for the next kin of the deceased in the incident and Rs. 50,000 for the grievously injured persons and Rs. 25,000 for those who have suffered simple injury in the stampede," he said.
Opposition parties blamed the Railways and the UP. "This is a failure of both central and state government." Pawan Kumar Bansal cannot skip his duty only by giving a technical answer that the footover Bridge did not collapse but the stampede happened on the station. There was much chaos and could have been managed in a better way," said BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar.
Trinamool Congress leader Saugata Roy, a former railway minister, too blamed the Railways and the local administration. Roy alleged that the Railways ran only 75 trains on Sunday as against the 150 it had promised. He claimed he police lathicharged people at the station, which "aggravated the situation".
Azam Khan quits, UP govt defends itself
The head of the organising committee for Kumbh Mela announced his resignation. "I have resigned as the chairman of the festival committee," said Mohammed Azam Khan, who is also a cabinet minister in Uttar Pradesh. "Although the stampede happened beyond the scope of my jurisdiction, I am deeply disturbed and step down on moral grounds."
Asked at a press conference whether the Uttar Pradesh government accepts blame for the stampede, Chief Secretary Usmani said: "If the incident has happened, there has to be some reason. We have to find out who is responsible for that. We need to probe."
"A huge crowd gathered at platforms Number 4 and 6 (at Allahabad station). The (police) personnel tried to control the crowd, the crowd surged from one end. We have to investigate what really happened," said UP Director General of Police AC Sharma.
UP Panchayati Raj Minister Balram Yadav rejected allegations that the government had failed in managing crowds at the railway station and right now his job was to help the victims. "It's our responsibility that the bodies of dead reach their families, they get compensation," he said.