ALLAHABAD: At least 37 people died and scores of others injured on Sunday evening when a stampede broke out at the Allahabad Junction teeming with pilgrims returning from the Mahakumbh here.
The incident occurred around 7 pm, allegedly when a railing leading to a footbridge over platform no. 6 collapsed.
Divisional Railway Manager of Allahabad, Harindra Rao, said 10 people died at the station itself. Rao also said over 20 people are undergoing treatment at the Railway Hospital and the SRN Hospital in the city and the condition of 15 of them is stated to be critical.
According to eyewitnesses, there were more than 4,000 people on the 150-metre long bridge, and many of them were leaning on the railing.
“While hundreds of people were trying to climb the stairs of the bridge, many others were trying to come down. Suddenly, GRP men resorted to lathicharge (to clear the bridge), resulting in railing collapse and subsequent stampede,” Mail Today quoted Ram Iqbal Singh, a pilgrim from Bihar.
Rao, however, said people were not lathi-charged and the police only attempted to regulate the movement of the crowd by asking passengers to stand in line. A police officer said an estimated 4,000 people were present at one single point at the site of the stampede.
"I do not know what the police did. I know that there was stampede and I got trampled upon. The police were trying to help and calm the crowds but there were so many people that the police failed," an eyewitness told NDTV.
Relatives of the victims have complained that there were no facilities at the railway station and that authorities took more than two hours to act after the stampede started.
They say there was only one doctor at the station attending to people who were injured in the stampede.
Questions have been raised over the Railways’ preparation for the mega event. “There were over 30,000 people at the station. Majority of them were at platform no. 6, 7 and 8 to catch the trains which were going towards Bihar and West Bengal. The GRP were also helpless,” a Railway official told Mail Today.
Both the DIG Railway and the DRM have denied reports that a portion of the banister collapsed under the weight of passengers jostling for space on the over-bridge.
Following the mishap, the Railways suspended movement of trains for a couple of hours to carry out the relief work.
UP home secretary R. N. Srivastava told Mail Today: “A large number of people were sitting on the footbridge. So those who were supposed to go from one platform to the other were not able pass through. The GRP were trying to remove those who were sitting there.”
Uttar Pradesh Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav has ordered an independent inquiry into the tragedy.
The state government has announced a compensation of Rs. 5 lakh to the kin of those killed in the incident and Rs. 1 lakh to the injured, Director, Information, Prabhat Mittal said. He added Chairman Revenue Board has been asked by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav to inquire into the incident and submit the report to him.
The state government also asked the railway ministry to ply more special trains so that the crowd in Allahabad could ease.
After the deaths, the Uttar Pradesh government requested the railways to shift some trains from the busy Allahabad station to the Prayag station on the outskirts of the city, 200 km from state capital Lucknow, an official said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condoled the death of pilgrims in the stampede and directed central ministries, including the railways, to extend all possible help to the state government in relief operations.
Police cordoned off the area and closed entry into the station. Trains coming to the Sangam city were halted at the Prayag railway station.
Defending the local administration, SP spokesman and Cabinet minister Rajendra Chowdhury said there was no laxity on its part and it was the failure of the Railways, which should have run more trains to deal with the rush.
Officials said over three crore people converged at the Mahakumbh for a holy dip on the occasion of mauni amavasya, considered the most auspicious day during the 12-yearly congregation.
While north central railways (NCR) ran 17 special trains for the 'Mauni Amavasya', arrangements turned out to be insufficient.
"We made elaborate arrangements but there has been an unfortunate incident. Our first priority is to attend to the injured," said Sandeep Mathur, chief public relations officer of NCR.
The trains were meant to augment the crowds returning after a holy dip at the Kumbh Mela and take passengers to New Delhi, Indore, Kanpur, Varanasi, Ahmedabad and other places, a railway official said.
He said most people at the Allahabad railway station were headed to Fatehpur, Etawah, Tundla, Shikohabad, Firozabad, Aligarh, Khurja and Manikpur stations and hence the crowd became unmanageable and swelled to unexpected numbers.
(with agency inputs)
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