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At least 12 killed during Vaishno Devi stampede

The Jammu and Kashmir administration has constituted a three-member panel, headed by principal secretary (home), to probe the incident and submit its report within a week, an official said.
The Vaishno Devi yatra gas resumed after the stampede. (ANI)
Published on Jan 01, 2022 11:27 PM IST

Jammu: Stampede at the Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu and Kashmir early on Saturday, officials said, as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims rushed to offer prayers on the first day of 2022.

The Jammu and Kashmir administration has constituted a three-member panel, headed by principal secretary (home), to probe the incident and submit its report within a week, an official said.

Also Read | Mismanagement, huge rush caused stampede in Vaishno Devi: Eyewitnesses

While an official said the stampede likely occurred after an altercation between some boys among the pilgrims, witnesses alleged mismanagement on part of the shrine board.

 

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The pilgrimage, however, was not disrupted as registrations resumed an hour after the stampede, the official quoted above said, asking not to be named.

The stampede occurred between 2.30am and 2.45am, near a relatively narrow passage at Gate 3 outside the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine. There were nearly 80,000 pilgrims in the area at the time of the incident, according to estimates.

“Twelve pilgrims died and 14 others were injured in the stampede in the market area near a body scanner,” duty officer Jagdev Singh said.Those injured were rushed to the Mata Vaishno Devi Narayana Superspeciality Hospital in Kakryal, he said.

A statement from the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board said nine of the injured were discharged after first aid and the rest were undergoing treatment.

J&K director general of police (DGP) Dilbag Singh, who visited the shrine after the stampede, told reporters that preliminary information suggested there was a minor altercation among some boys, and within seconds, there was a stampede.

“Police and officials of the civil administration were quick to respond, and the order within the crowd was immediately restored, but by that time, the damage had been done,” he said.

Witnesses, however, alleged that the number of devotees was beyond the permitted level with flagrant violation of Covid-19 norms. Some survivors also accused the Jammu and Kashmir administration of “mismanagement”.

“The Shrine Board said they were following Covid protocols and have imposed a cap of 25,000 devotees per day. How were there 200,000 people in the area at the time of the incident?” a pilgrim from Delhi asked.

A shopkeeper in the area also blamed overcrowding for the stampede. “The Bhawan area in Trikuta Hills cannot cater to the heavy rush of pilgrims but the Shrine Board allowed a large number of pilgrims, which led to chaos and subsequent stampede,” he said.

The pilgrims staged a protest in the area and sought a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the alleged lapses.

The Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, however, denied the charges saying all necessary arrangements were made in view of the expected rush.

“An unfortunate stampede happened near Gate No. 3 at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan. Rescue and evacuation operations were immediately launched by the Shrine Board authorities, District Administration and Police,” an official statement from the board said.

The Board also said that on Friday and Saturday, only 35,000 pilgrims were allowed to proceed for the yatra against the normal capacity of 50,000 in view of the pandemic.

“It is pertinent to mention here that the National Green Tribunal has capped the normal capacity of Yatra per day to 50000. Pertinently, keeping in view the COVID-19 Pandemic, 35000 pilgrims were allowed to proceed for yatra on 31st December 2021 and for 1st Jan. 2022,” the Board said in its statement.

Officials present at the scene said that 12 people died on spot and their bodies were taken to a hospital in the Katra base camp.

Condolences poured in from all quarters and Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to J&K lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha and Union minister Jitendra Singh to take stock of the situation

The central government is in constant touch with the J&K administration to assist the affected people, the PM said.

Speaking at an event in Delhi, Modi said he was “extremely saddened by the loss of lives due to a stampede at Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan. Condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon”.

A tweet from the Prime Minister’s Office said that “an ex gratia of 2 lakh each from PMNRF would be given to the next of kin of those who lost their lives due to the stampede at Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan. The injured would be given 50,000: PM @narendramodi”.

“Deeply pained at the loss of lives due to stampede at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine. My condolences to the families of the deceased & prayers with the injured,” the LG tweeted.

The J&K administration has also announced a relief of 10 lakh to the deceased and 2 lakh to the injured which will be paid by the Shrine board.

The J&K LG has constituted a three-member committee, headed by principal secretary (home) Shaleen Kabra with divisional commissioner Jammu Rajiv Langar and additional director general of police Mukesh Singh as its members, to probe the incident and submit a report within a week, an order issued on behalf of the J&K government said.

“The Committee shall examine in detail the causes/reasons behind the incident (stampede) and point out the lapses and fix the responsibility thereof,” the order said.

(With agency inputs)

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