Today's Paper

Heads roll as stampede toll mounts to 115

PILGRIMAGE GOES ON:Pilgrims take a dip in the Sind on Monday under the bridge on which a deadly stampede took place near the Ratangarh temple.— PHOTO: AFP  

As many as 115 people were, as on Monday evening, confirmed dead as a result of the stampede that broke out on a bridge near the Ratangarh Mata temple in Madhya Pradesh’s Datia district on Sunday. A judicial commission will be appointed on Tuesday to probe the incident.

According to Chambal DIG Dilip Arya, 110 people — 10 of them critical — are receiving treatment in three hospitals.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Secretary Anthony J.C. De Sa told The Hindu that top district officials have been suspended, for their apparent negligence, until the inquiry concludes.

“The [Datia] Collector Sanket Bhoindve, Superintendent of Police Chandrashekhar Solanki, Sub-Divisional Officer of Police B.N. Basave, Sub-Divisional Magistrate Mahip Tejasvi and a few policemen have been suspended. The local administrators, who have been suspended, were empowered to take decisions to manage dynamic situations like these — learning from previous experience,” said Mr. De Sa.

Former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh accused the police of taking bribes of Rs.200 per tractor to tread on the bridge. “All appointments from station house officers to collectors are made in MP by paying money to the ministers. This money is recovered from bribes which the police was collecting,” he said.

Chambal Inspector General of Police S.M. Afzal admitted that tractor trolleys transporting people were present on the bridge. “There were no collisions, but the presence of these vehicles created a commotion and rumours of the bridge collapsing — that led to the stampede,” he told this paper.

Prior to his suspension as SDM, Mr. Tejasvi told this reporter that the crowds were usually large only on Bhai Dooj, which comes after Diwali. “During Bhai Dooj, we deploy locals to manage traffic. This time, we simply followed what was done last year during Navaratri. We did not know that the crowd would swell,” he claimed.

Around 60 policemen, under the command of Deputy Superintendent of Police Basave, were deployed at the spot. Victims complained that the DSP ordered a lathicharge to prevent people from running, which aggravated the situation. DSP Basave and other officers were badly hurt in stone-pelting by pilgrims on Sunday.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan announced that a judicial commission would be appointed on Tuesday.