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Chaos prevails at stampede site in Kumbh

Utter chaos prevailed at the Nashik Civil Hospital where the victims of Wednesday's stampede have been admitted, reports Shashank Mhasawade.

india Updated: Aug 29, 2003 18:47 IST

Utter chaos prevailed at the Nashik Civil Hospital where the victims of Wednesday's stampede have been admitted.

The tragedy has dented the claims of the district administration that they had made adequate preparations for the Shahi Snan (Royal Bath) and could prevent any eventuality like a stampede.

While relatives of the injured have complained of government apathy and lack of doctors, medicines and proper treatment, the relatives of the people who died are blaming the administration for an inhuman approach to the tragedy.

More shockingly, the administration is short of funds, equipment and basic infrastructure like ambulances. The State Revenue, Police and Public Health departments are only passing the buck on to each other to avoid any responsibility for their inability to prevent or handle the stampede.

The administration has so far identified 18 dead bodies. The 69 injured, most of them women in the age group of 50-60 years, are undergoing treatment at the hospital.

When this correspondent visited the hospital, there was no enquiry counter for dissemination of information about the injured and the dead. Activists of the Shiv Sena, BJP, Bajrang Dal and the RSS were seen volunteering and providing information from makeshift information kiosks.

A visit to the Trauma Care ward threw up more surprises. There were no beds, just mattresses thrown on the floor. There was no basic hospital infrastructure in place, leave alone round the clock medical supervision.

Govind Prasad Sharma, a resident of Vidisha, whose wife Saroj was seriously injured in the stampede, was extremely upset with the hospital authorities.

"My wife has been complaining of severe chest pain since last night. All she received is one shot of an injection and a small tablet. When her pain became excruciating this morning, I created a scene, after which a senior doctor came to attend her. It is only after more than 24 hours had elapsed that the medical staff took an X-Ray. I only hope she does not die due to all this government apathy," said Sharma.

Sharma's is only a representative case. At every other bed in the six wards, one comes across similar cases of extreme negligence and lack of humanity.

Phoolzaria Devi from Bihar has also complained of severe chest pain that made it impossible for her to breath or speak. Her relative Krishnabhai complained that the doctors were not admitting her since there was no external injury.

"There is a definite internal injury and she is in deep pain. She can not eat but there is no arrangement for any liquid diet for her here," said Krishnabai.

Ramesh, grandson of Kankuben Patel from Daman, annoyed by the hospital authorities, wanted to rush his grandmother back home for better treatment. He has no faith in the hospital but no money to hire an ambulance to Daman.

And despite Maharashtra Chief Minister Sushilkumar Shinde's announcement that those injured would be given cash allowances for treatment and transportation, there is no monetary assistance being given to the needy.

"I want my naani to be discharged immediately. I have only the last Rs 500 left with me and the ambulance tariff is Rs 1500. I don't want to stay here for a minute but I am unable to take her back. Yesterday, the Chief Minister said we would get money to go back. I have been literally begging the authorities for the money the government has promised but I was driven away every time I went up to them seeking help," complained Patel, who is entitled for Rs 10,000.

The administration, however, made routine claims of being ready to face any eventuality but admitted reluctantly that there was a lack of medical infrastructure. Nashik Divisional Commissioner Vijay Mathankar admitted to the non-availability of ambulances. "There is a shortage of ambulances and we are requesting the local organizations to press their vehicles into service. We have so far identified 18 dead bodies. For the remaining 11, we have decided to release their photographs to the media. We have decided to probe the stampede at the district magistrate level, details of which would be finalized soon," he said.

When asked about shortage of funds, Mathankar and district collector Mahesh Zagde said the administration had adequate funds. However, both failed to answer why the process of distributing money had not begun even after a day after the stampede and when the people were actually begging for cash to return to their hometowns. All Mathankar could say was that the administration would soon issue cheques to every victim or relative of the dead based on the entitlement.

Meanwhile the Nashik Police is probing the role of the sadhus who set off the stampede. The sadhus did not seem to belong to any of the known akhadas and the process of their identification is in progress.

First Published: Aug 29, 2003 00:00 IST