New Delhi/Allahabad: After 36 people died in a stampede at the Allahabad railway station, the union and state governments have denied that organizational lapses may have contributed to the tragedy; they say the massive rush of passengers, returning from a dip in the waters of the Ganga and Yamuna, at the Maha Kumbh, the world's largest religious festival.
Azam Khan, a senior cabinet minister in Akhilesh Yadav's state government, resigned as the head of Kumbh Mela Management Committee; he said he was accepting "moral responsibility." The UP government has said an enquiry to identify who is to blame for the stampede will be completed within a month.
Three crore people were in Allahabad on Sunday for mauni amavasya, believed to be the most auspicious day of the Maha Kumbh, which takes place once every 12 years.
Like the state government, Union Railways Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said that larger than anticipated crowds last evening provoked the stampede. He denied reports of a pedestrian bridge collapsing, or a misguided lathi or baton charge by the police on the passengers. " The entire Railway system of India ferries 2.3 crore people each day. Even if we have trains at 10-minute intervals at Allahabad, managing 3 crore people may not be possible," he said. (Highlights: What Pawan Bansal said)
At the railway station, witnesses said there was barely place to stand. "Suddenly there were at least a hundred people on top of me," recalls Shashi Bhaduri, lying on a hospital bed. (Watch: No help for hours, say eyewitnesses)
For almost two hours after the tragedy, there was only one doctor available to attend to the injured at the station, said others.
The youngest victim, eight-year-old Muskaan, lay injured on the platform for over two hours, before railway officials shifted her to hospital. She died this morning. (Watch: No help for two hours, eight-year-old Muskaan dies)
Another surge of pilgrims is expected on February 15 and 25, when masses of people will take a dip in the rivers again
Allahabad Helpline numbers: 05321072, 2408149, 011-23341074, 011-24357660