Hariharan Nair commission submits report on Pulmedu tragedy

The final report of the M.R. Hariharan Nair Commission has found fault with the Police, Revenue, and Forest departments for the Pulmedu tragedy that claimed the lives of 102 Sabarimala pilgrims in January 2011.

Mr. Hariharan Nair, retired judge, submitted the final report to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Thursday in the presence of Devaswom Minister V.S. Sivakumar. Chief Secretary-designate K. Jayakumar was present. It is understood that the report said that senior police officers had failed to ensure that the police personnel deployed in the area reached their duty points with proper instructions. There was no controlled movement of pilgrims and no proper lighting and proper crowd control. There was no action on the part of the policemen on duty to remove the autorickshaw parked in the area that proved to be a bottleneck. The idle autorickshaw was parked in a vulnerable area and it proved to be a bottleneck for the fleeing pilgrims. The commission termed as serious lapse the failure of the authorities to safely remove the chain used to control the crowd. When it was removed, it was kept at the same spot, as a result of which pilgrims who fled down got their feet entangled in it.

With regard to the failure of the Revenue Department, the commission said the disaster management mechanism did not function properly. The Rapid Action Force and other agencies failed to respond when the tragedy occurred. The commission expressed satisfaction at the implementation of a majority of the 30 suggestions it had made in its interim report submitted earlier.

Mr. Sivakumar said the recommendations of the commission would be examined and implemented well ahead of next pilgrim season. The commission was asked to probe the circumstances leading to the tragedy and give its recommendations on preventing tragedies in future.

The tragedy occurred on January 14, 2011.

The commission was appointed under the Judicial Inquiries Act.

The Minister said the government had implemented a majority of the recommendations in the interim report before the last pilgrim season began. He pointed out that the pilgrim season had passed off smoothly and was accident-free.

Mr. Hariharan Nair later said that the commission's inquiry did not find any terror forces behind the Pulmedu tragedy. He said that insufficiencies in the police security arrangements were responsible for the scale of the tragedy. The change in time of Makaravilakku and the rush of pilgrims from Tamil Nadu to return home in time for the Pongal festival also contributed to the tragedy, Mr. hariharan Nair added.