On the day when West Bengal vaccinated a record 11 lakh people against COVID-19, a stampede at a vaccination centre in Jalpaiguri district left around 20 people injured. Locals said nearly 30 were injured while the police put the figure at 20 and said five of the injured are undergoing treatment at a hospital for serious injuries.
The incident took place at a school, being used as a vaccination centre, in the Dhupguri block of Jalpaiguri in north Bengal. Hundreds of people crowded at the gates since the crack of dawn from nearby villages and tea gardens.
Eyewitnesses said around 2,000 people had gathered near the centre and there was hardly any police deployment in the area.
When the police finally arrived at 10 am and opened the gates, the crowd rushed in, running and pushing each other -- several women with children and elderly people fell to the ground in the chaos. A police official was also injured while trying to help the people.
The situation was brought under control after a large team of police officials were sent to the spot. Locals also rushed in to help take the injured to hospitals.
Jalpaiguri superintendent of police Deborshi Dutta said around 20 people were injured but 15 were let off after first-aid and five were admitted to the hospital. However, locals claimed that around 30 people were injured and eight people were admitted to different hospitals.
An enquiry has been ordered into the incident.
The Bengal government has decided to distribute coupons for Covid vaccination from door-to-door with dates and time slots for each person so there is no repeat of the stampede-like situation witnessed in Jalpaiguri.
In a hastily called meeting this evening, the chief secretary asked district magistrates, superintendent of police and chief medical officers of health of each district to co-ordinate and micromanage vaccination centres.
Asha workers and health workers will go from door-to-door distributing coupons for vaccination. Each coupon will have a date and a time slot.
The police have been asked to monitor the crowd at all vaccination centres, said Dr Ajoy Chakraborty, Bengal's director of health services.
Meanwhile, the health department today said it had vaccinated the highest number of people in a single day -- 10,99,437 by 7 pm. The figure could cross 12 lakh by end of day, officials said.