Blame game in U.P. over stampede
Akhilesh constitutes committee to probe incident
Sunday’s stampede at the Allahabad railway station, which claimed 36 lives and left 39 injured, three of them in a serious condition, has come as a rude shock for the Samajwadi Party government, which had won plaudits for the Maha Kumbh Mela arrangements.
Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, who met Governor B.L. Joshi on Monday to apprise him of the tragedy and the relief and rehabilitation measures, said: “ Jinki ghalti hae unke bare main kuch nahin bolna chahta, aap logon ko bhi pata hae” (I don’t want to mention who is responsible, you all know), implying that the State is not to be blamed.
Mr. Yadav told journalists that his government’s priority was to ensure proper treatment for the injured and arrange for the return of those who were held up in Allahabad.
He said relief measures had been launched on a war footing and cautioned the media to exercise restraint when reporting events.
He has announced an ex-gratia of Rs. 5 lakh for the families of the deceased and Rs. 2 lakh for the injured.
But before Mr. Yadav’s meeting with the Governor, Urban Development Minister Mohammad Azam Khan quit as chairman of the Kumbh Mela Committee, owning “moral responsibility” for the stampede. Mr. Khan, who is in his hometown Rampur, has sent his resignation letter to the Chief Minister. His resignation came within 24 hours of him blaming the Railways for the tragedy.
In his resignation letter, Mr. Khan said he had fulfilled his responsibility with sincerity and honesty with the help and cooperation from all officials assigned with the jobs. Nobody had expected that a tragedy of this magnitude would occur, Mr. Khan said.
Late on Sunday night, the Chief Minister constituted a committee headed by State Revenue Board Chairman Jagan Mathews for conducting a probe into the incident. The probe committee has been asked to submit its report in a month. Mr. Yadav followed this up by despatching Ministers Balram Yadav and Durga Prasad Yadav, Chief Secretary Javed Usmani and Director General of Police A.C. Sharma to Allahabad on Monday.
The government apparently is not willing to bear the onus for the incident and would like to shift the blame on the railways. State officials pointed out that no incident took place at the Maha Kumbh site, despite about three crore devotees taking a dip in the Ganga and the Sangam, and it was in the railway station that the stampede occurred. IG (Law and Order) Badri Prasad Singh said 14 companies of police and Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) had been given to the Railways and 1,700 constables to the Government Railway Police (GRP). Mr. Singh denied that use of force by policemen deployed on platform number 6 caused the stampede.
The police officer said all arrangements had been made, anticipating a crowd of about three crore people on Mauni Amavasya (February 10), and a meeting was conducted in Allahabad on February 5 by ADG (Law and Order), Arun Kumar.