‘Collective failure’ to blame for Sankranti boat tragedy in Patna
The two-member inquiry team of disaster management department principal secretary Pratyaya Amrit and Patna range DIG Shalin on Friday submitted its report on the boat tragedy that claimed 23 lives near Patna on January 14.Updated: Feb 10, 2017 19:14 IST
Blame it on poor crowd management or inept administrative handling, the boat tragedy in Ganga near the state capital on January 14, which left 23 dead, was waiting to happen.
The incident was third such since 2012 after the stampede during Chhath Puja in 2012 that left 18 dead and another stampede near Gandhi Maidan during Dussehra celebrations in October 2014, in which 33 lost their lives.
The two-member inquiry team of disaster management department principal secretary Pratyaya Amrit and Patna range DIG Shalin submitted its report on the boat tragedy on Friday.
“We have examined every aspect of the tragedy in detail and suggested some measures to ensure such tragedies are not repeated in the future,” said Amrit. He, however, refused to divulge details of the report.
An independent assessment by HT suggests that had the authorities been a little more careful, things would not have taken such a serious turn.
For instance, the tragedy may have been averted had due precaution been taken for the ‘Kite Festival’ on Makar Sankranti day. Officials, it seems, were callous enough to issue routine letters, digitally lifting orders of previous years and cutting and pasting them to reissue them as new directives without addressing the nature of the gathering.
The makeshift bamboo bridge near the kite festival venue, perhaps was never tested for its load bearing capacity and was made keeping the previous crowd in mind.
“What happened in the past could not have been a guiding parameter for the present. One had to apply one’s mind according to the newer challenge,” said a retired administrative official, who wished not to be quoted.
The retired official said events like kite festivals, organised on the back of successful Guru Gobind Singh’s Prakash Utsav (Jan 1 to 5), had encouraged people to come out in larger numbers but the authorities failed to work on a crowd management module. “No control room was set up in the diara to make announcements, nor was any magistrate deputed even though two districts – Patna and Saran -- were involved in the security of the event hosted by the tourism department ,” he said.
He also wondered why the tourism department, which had announced the kite festival in the diara with free ferrying and feast of chura-dahi, as an added attraction, did not think of crowd control measures and public address system or even make concrete preparations to meet any eventuality.
“The organisers clearly faltered as far as coordination and participation was concerned. Collective responsibility was diluted to make it nobody’s responsibility,” other sources said.
Officials in the administrative wing agree that deputation of non-administrative officials (like engineers, people from other services, etc.), also called ‘Japani magistrates’ (non-regular’s in administrative parlance) made crowd management difficult.
If sources are to be believed, at times Jeevika sevikas were also deputed during important events.
A hue and cry was raised after the boat mishap over the plying the boats without registration and in a knee jerk reaction, the Patna district administration also announced that the registration of boats was a must for plying but never tried to make the process simpler.
“The administration needs to innovate and one way could be to organise registration camp at one of the ghats, instead of asking the boatmen to visit the collectorate for the same,” said an official.