Home minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday accused the Uttar Pradesh government of ignoring a specific warning issued in February about terrorists planning to attack the Sheetla Ghat on the banks of the Ganga river.
Chidambaram, who travelled to the temple town of Uttar Pradesh a day after a blast killed a two-year-old girl, said the central intelligence agencies had in February shared an input with the state government about a possible attack.
"In February 2010, a specific advisory was given regarding the Sheetla Ghat. Nobody can expect a more specific input. It is the duty of every state government to provide security," the home minister told reporters in Varanasi.
Blaming the Mayawati-led state government for laxity in security in Varanasi, he said: "The first responsibility of providing security is of the state government and we can only supplement this. And I am sure the government of Uttar Pradesh knows its responsibilities."
He said the blast underlines the fact that "we should not underestimate the nature of the threat".
But he maintained that the incident need not be exaggerated.
"I know that this is the fourth incident in Varanasi. We had one in 2005, then we had Sankat Mochan (blast) in 2006 and we had another in 2007," the minister said about the terror attacks in the past.
He said the last three years had been "relatively peaceful".
"After 26/11 in Mumbai, 2009 was completely free of any terror attack. In February 2010, we have had one terrorist attack in Pune. And when I was hoping and praying that the year will come to end without other incident, unfortunately we had this incident yesterday (Tuesday)," said the minister.
He said the Uttar Pradesh Police had told him that it was a low to medium intensity blast but added that a forensic report about the nature of the bomb was awaited.
"But the blast was strong enough to make some boulders travel to a distance of 20-30 feet."
He expressed "deep regret and condolences for all those who have suffered in the bombing".
"In particular, I want to express my deep condolences to Santosh Kumar, the lecturer, who lost his lovely young daughter," he said.
The minister informed that another injured, Phoolmani, has suffered a head injury. "I am sorry her condition is also causing serious concern."
"All other patients have suffered minor to small injuries. All of them are out of danger. The doctors have told me that the other patients are safe and there is no danger to their lives," Chidambaram said.
He said 31 patients were admitted in the hospital and of them, four are foreigners.
The home minister earlier visited the site of the blast and met those wounded in the terror strike.
Chidambaram went to the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) hospital where several injured are being treated - straight after arriving at the Babatpur airport. Thereafter, he visited the Sheetla Ghat.
According to officials, the minister stayed at the site for nearly 10 minutes. He went to different corners of the ghat and questioned senior police officers.
While inspecting the site, Chidambaram also met the family members of Swastika Sharma - the girl killed in the blast.
The blast took place around 6.30 pm during maha aarti watched by hundreds and sparked off a stampede. The terror group Indian Mujahideen, in an e-mail, claimed responsibility.
Swastika succumbed to multiple splinter injuries and was pronounced dead by doctors following the blast.