Allahabad: Thirty-six people have died and many others injured in a stampede at the Allahabad Railway station on Sunday evening. Of the 36 bodies, 16 are yet to be identified.
The stampede happened at around 7 pm on a footbridge between platform number 5 and 6 of the railway station. There were lakhs of people at the station, many on their way back from Allahabad after a holy dip in the Ganga at the Maha Kumbh Mela; Sunday was 'Mauni Amavasya', considered the most auspicious day of bathing during the 12-yearly congregation.
According to eyewitnesses, the stampede happened after the police lathi-charged to control the crowd. Divisional Railway Manager Harinder Rao, however, claimed that 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," said an eyewitness.
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.
"At least four to five people died at the station because they were not taken to the hospital for two hours," said another eyewitness.
"It was extremely crowded. You can say there was no place to even put a seed. I was in middle of all this. I myself do not know how this happened. Due to all the pushing I reached the stairs and people keep on pushing, I got crushed in the stampede. There must be at least 100 people on top of me. By god's grace my life was saved. I have injuries in both my legs. I still cannot move them," said a survivor.
Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, who is on his way to Allahabad, said, "Our officials reached late. There was a lot of traffic."
The Uttar Pradesh government has ordered an inquiry into the stampede and sanctioned an ex-gratia of Rs. five lakh each to the families of the dead.
The UP government has also asked the Railways to make proper arrangements to clear the huge rush of devotees. Over three crore people were at the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad on Sunday to take a holy dip. 49 special trains were put in place for them in addition to the 112 regular trains that pass through Allahabad daily.