Allahabad: Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal has said a there was no lathicharge by the Railway Protection Force or RPF at the Allahabad station on Saturday where 36 people died after a stampede. He added, "The foot overbridge or railing did not collapse. There were a lot of people on the platform, there was a lot of rush. Enclosures for the Kumbh travellers had been created, but those enclosures were broken due to the rush. I still believe our arrangements were adequate."
"We are trying to send more trains to Allahabad even if it means cancelling trains in other areas," he added.
The youngest victim of the stampede was Muskaan, an eight-year-old girl from Jabalpur. 16 bodies are yet to be identified. More than 14 hours after the stampede, it is still not clear what caused it, though some witnesses have claimed that cops using lathis or sticks to control the crowd caused panic.
The 37 injured are being treated at Swaroop Rani Hospital and the Railway hospital, where many are said to be in critical condition and there are fears that the toll could go up.
The administration has been accused of gross mismanagement. Witnesses claim deaths could have been prevented if those injured had been treated on time. Little Muskaan had been lying injured at the railway station for over two hours, before railway officials shifted her to hospital. (Watch: No help for two hours, eight-year-old Muskaan dies) The Railway hospital is less than 500 metres away from the station. At the station, there was only one doctor available to attend to the injured.
Sunday was 'Mauni Amavasya', considered the most auspicious day of the Maha Kumbh and about three crore people were in the city. At the railway station, witnesses said there was barely place to stand as lakhs of people attempted to board trains to return home after a dip in the Ganga. (Watch: No help for hours, say eyewitnesses)
At 7 pm, as waves of people pushed to try climb the stairs of a footbridge between platforms 5 and 6, the stampede began. "Suddenly there were at least a hundred people on top of me," recalls Shesh Bhaduri, lying on a hospital bed. He says that both his legs are badly injured and that he cannot lift them yet.
Shashi says he did not see policemen use excessive force, but other witnesses claim that the cops present at the station, struggling to keep people moving in an orderly manner, hit them with canes, adding to the melee. UP Home Secretary Subhash Chandra, though said, "The issue of lathi-charge has not been proven till now. It may be true but we have no information of it. None of the higher officials have ascertained this."
Akhilesh Yadav's state government has ordered an inquiry to ascertain what happened. Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal has admitted officials reached late and attributed the delay to bad traffic.
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