One year on, probe gets nowhere

Govt. yet to file its affidavits, though the Somayajulu panel got two extensions

July 15, 2016 12:00 am | Updated 08:30 am IST - RAJAMAHENDRAVARAM:

Traumatic moments:Devotees caught in a stampede near pushkar ghat on the first day of Maha Pushkaram, in Rajahmundry on July 14, 2015. —File Photo: K.R. Deepak

Traumatic moments:Devotees caught in a stampede near pushkar ghat on the first day of Maha Pushkaram, in Rajahmundry on July 14, 2015. —File Photo: K.R. Deepak

It’s been just over one year since the stampede on the inaugural day of the Godavari Pushkaralu this day last year (14 July, 2015) at the Pushkara Ghat here had claimed 28 lives and left 51 injured and the memories of the horrific incident are still alive in the minds of the people of Rajamahendravaram and the twin Godavari districts.

However, the judicial probe ordered by the state government into the incident has not made much headway, even after the inquiry commission got two extensions of its tenure. Government counsel has not submitted any affidavits from its side though the advocates on behalf of the petitioners filed documentary evidences.

The stampede at the bathing ghats of the Godavari Maha Pushkaram had exposed the utter failure of the crowd management systems put in place for the event billed as a once-in-144-years spectacle.

On 13 July, the crowds had started building up since midnight at the Pushkar Ghat gate No.1 where Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu a holy dip and performed a puja in the early hours, while the crowd was held back for about an hour and a half. The moment Mr. Naidu left the Pushkar Ghat and police personnel were seeing off the VIPs, the gates were opened and the crowd surged towards the ghat, resulting in a stampede.

Three days after the incident, district Collector H. Arun Kumar had sent a report to government blaming the failure of crowd management by the police for the incident.

“The police have failed to tackle huge crowd that surged from all the three ways — Godavari Railway Station, river bund and Reliance Mart — that thronged Pushkara Ghat at 8.26 a.m. on 14th of this month. The top police officials who planned the crowd management at that ghat have only posted a few police personnel who did not know the local topography,” Mr. Arun Kumar mentioned in the report.

Video clippings

Then the government appointed the Justice C.Y. Somayajulu Commission on September 9, 2015, to go into the issue and asked it to give its report in six months to fix the responsibility on the officials who allowed it to happen.

Though AP Bar Council Member Muppalla Subba Rao, former MP Vundavalli Arun Kumar and some CPI(M) leaders have submitted video clippings and other documentary evidence to the Commission, government counsel Ch. Prabhakar Rao failed to file any affidavit in the last nine sittings of the Commission.

The Commission got two extensions after its initial term was over, and it is waiting for the third extension.

“It is a shame that State government has not taken any action on the officials who are responsible for the incident and are still working in the district,” Mr. Subba Rao said, criticising the delay in bringing the guilty to book.

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