NEW DELHI

Allahabad stampede toll 36

Pilgrims wait for their train at Allahabad railway station on Monday.AP PHOTO

Pilgrims wait for their train at Allahabad railway station on Monday.AP PHOTO  

Inquiry report to be submitted in a month: U.P. Chief Secretary

Even as the death toll in Sunday’s stampede at Allahabad railway station climbed to 36, the authorities on Monday could not provide conclusive details. The railway station was teeming with pilgrims going home after a dip on the occasion of Mauni Amavasya at the Maha Kumbh Mela when the stampede occurred.

Initial reports suggested that the railing of a footbridge near platform No.6 had collapsed and caused the stampede. However, both the State administration and Union Railway Minister P.K. Bansal denied this on Monday. Only enclosures were broken due to the rush, Mr. Bansal said, while ruling out that a lathi-charge by security personnel led to the commotion.

He maintained that the tragedy was caused by the huge rush on the footbridge. Over three crore pilgrims attended the Mela on Sunday.

Mr. Bansal announced an ex gratia of Rs. 1 lakh for the kin of those killed, Rs. 50,000 for the grievously injured and Rs. 25,000 for those who suffered minor injuries. He also announced free passes for the families of the victims to reach the spot. CPRO NCR Sandeep Mathur said according to reports someone fell during the rush, causing others to topple over each other. The victims included 29 women and an eight-year-old girl, while 39 persons were injured.

Talking to journalists here, U.P. Chief Secretary Javed Usmani said it was not easy to establish the chronology of events so quickly and the cause of the incident would be known only after due investigation. The State has called for an enquiry and the report will be out in a month, he said.

“The crowd came in unprecedented numbers. Whether it was a plan failure or some action on the spot which caused the stampede, we’ll know only after investigations. But this would not have happened if things had gone as per plan,” he said.

Asked about the alleged baton-charge by the police, Mr. Usmani said that given the higher-than-expected flow of pilgrims the security personnel were instructing people to shift quickly to regulate traffic.

“Whatever was humanly possible was done. We cooperated with the Railways. But no pilgrim was inconvenienced during the snan ,” he said.

Meanwhile, the All India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha blamed inadequate arrangements for pilgrims and the police action for the incident.

Panchaytati Raj Minister Balram Yadav said the State’s priority was to treat the injured and to transfer the bodies to the families, and send the remaining pilgrims back home safe. He also said it was too early to comment on the actual sequence of events.

North Central Railway General Manager Alok Johri said a sudden surge of crowd was witnessed at platforms 4 and 6, but all measures of disaster management were in place.

He, however, denied reports that announcements were made asking people without tickets to proceed toward a particular platform. “I have not heard and cannot imagine why such an announcement can be made.”

Asked why CCTV footage was not yet used to provide details, Mr. Johri said the visuals would be seen and officials and police personnel guilty of laxity or of ignoring the injured would be punished.

DGP A.C. Sharma said action would be taken against those responsible after the investigations were complete.

Meanwhile, State Urban Development Minister Mohammad Azam Khan resigned as Kumbh Mela in-charge on Monday owning “moral responsibility” for the tragedy.

“Though the incident took place outside the Kumbh Mela premises, I take moral responsibility and resign as in-charge of the Kumbh. I am sending my resignation to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav,” he said in Lucknow.

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