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Many lapses, say officials on tent collapse during PM Modi’s Bengal rally

Of the three canopies set up for the meeting in West Bengal’s Midnapore, one collapsed during Modi’s speech, injuring 90 people.

india Updated: Jul 17, 2018 23:59 IST
Koushik Dutta
Koushik Dutta
Hindustan Times, Midnapore
Midnapore rally,PM's Midnapore rally,Modi's Midnapore rally
Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits a woman, who was injured after a portion of a tent collapsed at his rally, at a hospital in Midnapore on July 16. (PTI Photo )

A second canopy set up for the public during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally caved in and the boundary wall of the Midnapore College ground tilted on Tuesday evening when the venue was empty, indicating that a far bigger mishap could have taken place on Monday, when 90 people were injured.

Of the three canopies set up for the public meeting, one collapsed during Modi’s speech, leaving as many as 90 people injured.

A State Forensic Science Laboratory (SFCL) team that visited the spot on Tuesday morning indicated that there were multiple reasons for the mishap.

“The ground suffered marshy conditions due to the rains. Water accumulated in pockets on the roof, increasing the weight. The iron poles were driven to a depth of only three-four inches into the ground. Moreover, the rods were held in their place with iron plates (under the ground) with only one screw, while there were provisions for four. The last two points were crucial,” said C Sarkar, the head of physics division of SFCL, after inspecting the spot.

Both the tents collapsed pretty much due to the same reasons, said the SFCL officer.

“Shearing of bolts took place. There were two layers of plastic tarpaulins which were quite heavy,” added Sarkar. He also seized samples of rusty material from the structure.

West Midnapore police superintendent Alok Rajoria said the police had registered a case after some people lodged a complaint on the canopy’s collapse.

The police are collecting CCTV footage from the venue.

Policemen sealed the venue for an investigation. Teams of policemen kept visiting the ground on Tuesday morning. Among them was additional director general, intelligence branch, Siddhinath Gupta.

The mishap triggered a spat among leaders of the Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Blaming the state police for the incident, vice president of the BJP’s Bengal unit, Biswapriya Roy Chowdhury, alleged, “The policemen who were present at the venue on Monday did not make any effort to prevent the enthusiastic supporters from climbing on the poles. They stood like spectators. Naturally, some supporters climbed the structure for a look at the Prime Minister.”

“Had the police been active, the mishap could have been averted,” claimed Roy Chowdhury.

BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha, too, said, “Why did the district police superintendent Alok Rajoria reach the spot half an hour after the incident? He was supposed to be present when the PM was present at the meeting.”

State food and supplies minister Jyotipriyo Mullick hit back saying, “Did we appoint the contractor for the arrangements? Why blame the police if the party leaders cannot control their men. People were brought from Bihar and Jharkhand yesterday in vehicles that bore the number plates of those states.”

West Midnapore district Trinamool president Ajit Maity said the rally was entirely a BJP show. “They made the arrangements, their workers assaulted policemen, and now they are blaming the police. This is ridiculous,” he said.

On Monday, Trinamool Congress secretary general Partha Chatterjee told the media that the organisers had to take responsibility for the mishap.

A few minutes into his speech, the Prime Minister himself asked those who ascended the iron poles to descend.

“The canopy collapsed because it could not bear the weight of so many people climbing up the poles,” remarked Subhash Chandra, the labour contractor working for the decorator who supplied the materials for the stage, and the tents.

“It is important to note that while one of the structures caved in during the meeting partly due to the weight of enthusiastic supporters.. the one that collapsed in the evening did not suffer any such load,” said Maity.

On Tuesday morning, the Midnapore Medical College and Hospital authorities discharged 17 of those admitted on Monday after they suffered injuries. As many as 90 were brought to the hospital with injuries, out of whom 14 were discharged after preliminary treatment.

First Published: Jul 17, 2018 15:58 IST