The toll in Sunday’s stampede at Allahabad railway station rose to 36, even as the Uttar Pradesh government and the Railways to blame each other. Azam Khan, chairman of the Kumbh Mela (fair) committee, has stepped down owning moral responsibility for the tragedy.
The Railways and the state government claimed to have put adequate arrangements in place to ensure a smooth sailing during the Mahakumbh’s most important bathing day, “Mauni .”
UP Chief Secretary Javed Usmani said the dead included 28 women and a child, while three of the 39 injured were critical.
Usmani added that 20 bodies had been identified and arrangements were being made to send them to their native places. “Efforts are on to identify the rest,” he said. Rejecting assertions that the state government had not made adequate arrangements for the “shahi snan (royal bath),” Usmani said: “We had done everything that was humanly possible.”
He also refused to comment on the reasons behind the accident unless the probe report was submitted. “An inquiry has been ordered. The findings will be with us within a month,” Usmani said.
Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has asked ministers Balram Yadav and Durga Yadav to rush to Allahabad to monitor relief operations and assess the preparations for the next “shahi snan” on February 15.
Meanwhile, the government and Railways officials have started trading charges.
“The tragedy occurred at the railway station. Technically, it is under the jurisdiction of the Railways and we have no say there,” Azam Khan said. Akhilesh Yadav also appeared upset over the criticisms heaped on the state government for the tragedy.
“You know who is responsible for the tragedy,” he retorted when asked if the state government failed to make proper arrangements. He also asked the media to “mind its language” in the wake of some TV channels playing footage of him attending a marriage at Etawah at the time of the incident.
Railway Minister Pawan Bansal said the Railways was not responsible for the tragedy. “It is wrong to say the Railways had made arrangements for transporting the devotees,” he said in Allahabad.
“The administration should not have allowed a large number of people into the station. The devotees should have been stopped at the fair grounds,” said a senior railway official.
The Railways on Monday pressed several special trains into service to clear the rush. “Over 25 special trains already departed from the Allahabad railway station on Monday morning,” said a railway official.
There was still a huge crowd at the station, waiting for trains to their respective destinations.