"There was chaos... There was no space to even keep our feet. I had many people falling over me"
Even as the State authorities on Monday failed to provide details of Sunday’s stampede at the Allahabad railway station that claimed 36 lives, those who were caught in the stampede blamed it on police action and mismanagement. According to some, there were two stampedes — one at 6.30 p.m. and another at 8.40 p.m.
Manorama Devi, who suffered a fracture in her abdomen in the first stampede at platform no. 1, said, barring one all the passages were blocked and people were jostling for space. “There was chaos. Some people were going up while others were coming down. Only one bridge was open. There was no space to even keep our feet. I had many people falling over me.”
Another eyewitness said the injured and the dead bodies were kept in an office at the station for three hours till help arrived. “The officials told us they were helpless as most of the gates and bridges were closed. I saw three people die in front of me, but no help arrived,” she said. A senior North Central Railway official said due to heavy traffic bodies were removed and the injured rushed to the hospital only after a few hours. The city, which was teeming with lakhs of pilgrims returning after a dip at the Maha Kumbh Mela, had exhausted all three-tiers of its parking space.
Relatives of the victims say that many lives could have been saved if the injured were provided immediate relief.
The parents of eight-year-old Muskan said she died of injuries as no help reached them for three hours. Also, for more than two hours around 10 bodies wrapped in towels and white cloth were lying on the platform unattended, eyewitnesses said.
Sudhir Kumar, 45, a teacher from Delhi says a late announcement around 8.40 p.m. about the arrival of a train caused people to rush in opposite directions. “We had a reservation in Prayag Raj Mail but when we reached platform no. 6 there was no information on the timing of the train. Everyone was impatient. People were also waiting for another train and soon the crowd started piling up. Then we heard that the train would not come to platform no. 6 but platform no. 1. We started going up the stairs but there was no space to move. It was so packed. I shouted to the police to stop people from coming but the crowd just continued to pile up.”
Eyewitnesses alleged that the police used force and lathi-charged people to prevent them from crossing over to the other platform. No help reached the spot for a couple of hours. However, Divisional Railway manager Harindar Rao said the police were only trying to regulate the movement of the crowd by asking the pilgrims to stand in line at the platforms.
The eyewitnesses also blamed the lack of medical help at the station. “There was only one stretcher for 100 people and the ambulance was one kilometre away. Why were there no facilities to reach the nearest hospital? People were dying and we could see no doctors. We are grateful to the scouts, who were trying to revive us,” said a victim.
According to reports, only a single doctor was available on the spot at the time. Most of the victims were from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The injured, three of whom are in serious condition, were admitted to various hospitals here. Post-mortem of 22 bodies were conducted and 19 bodies handed over to the relatives, officials said. However, 14 bodies are still unidentified.
The Uttar Pradesh government has called for an enquiry into the incident and sanctioned an ex-gratia sum of Rs. 5 lakh to the kin of each of the devotees. The Central government has also announced an ex-gratia compensation of Rs. 5 lakh to the next of kin of those killed, and Rs. 1 lakh each to those injured seriously.
Allahabad MP Reoti Raman Singh visited the hospital and met the injured on Monday.