Special Correspondent

“Slow response by Chief Minister aggravated the misery of the victims”

“Ms. Raje did not even meet the families of the victims”

“Rs. 2 lakh relief to kin of dead inadequate”

JAIPUR: Congress general secretary Ashok Gehlot has blamed the Rajasthan administration for Tuesday’s tragedy at the Chamunda Mata temple in Jodhpur’s Mehrangarh Fort. Administrative lapses coupled with a slow response by Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje to the tragedy aggravated the misery of the victims and their families, he alleged.

“It is condemnable that the Chief Minister visited the affected area eight hours after the incident. This was when she was informed about the accident much before she took off from Jaipur for Banswara to offer puja at a temple there. Her Jodhpur trip, carried out thereafter, remained a mere ritual,” said Mr. Gehlot told journalists here on Saturday.

He alleged that Ms. Raje did not even meet the family members of the victims.

“The deaths of 224 persons in the temple stampede were the outcome of negligence on the part of the State government. This is yet another instance of poor governance in the State which otherwise has been witnessing many such serious lapses that have cost many lives in the past,” Mr. Gehlot added.

“In every such case, Ms. Raje either did not visit the affected area or reached the place hours or even days after,” he said.

‘Cursory visit’

Mr. Gehlot compared Ms. Raje’s “cursory visit” to that of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi to Jodhpur the day after the tragedy. “Rahul Gandhi tried to reach out to the affected families,” he said, citing the instance of the former’s visit to the Kalal Colony, which reported 10 deaths.

Mr. Gehlot said neither Ms. Raje nor her Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria ever considered stepping down from their posts owning moral responsibility after many tragedies.

Unwilling to hold a proper probe into the incident, the government had initially announced an administrative enquiry by the Additional Chief Secretary. “Only under pressure from the Congress, the government finally decided to have an enquiry by the retired High Court judge, Jas Raj Chopra,” he said.

Terming the relief of Rs.2 lakh announced by the government to the families of the deceased as inadequate, Mr. Gehlot said the amount should be a minimum of Rs.5 lakh and a job should be offered to a member from each affected family.

‘Discrimination’

“There has been discrimination in payment of relief,” he claimed.

Mr. Gehlot commended the people of his home town of Jodhpur who, irrespective of their caste and religion, came forward to help the victims.

“The role of the Muslim population living in the vicinity of the Mehrangarh Fort had been exemplary though the whole of Jodhpur rose as one to help the victims and their families,” he said. The tragedy made the Muslims in Jodhpur keep Id celebrations a low-key affair this year, he added.