Railways-UP blame game on Kumbh stampede starts

Kumbh stampede
Refusing to accept the blame for Sunday's stampede that killed 36 people at the Allahabad railway station, the Indian Railways on Monday said that there were "limitations" to carry such a huge rush of devotees on a single day if other modes of transport did not share the burden.

The victims include 26 women and a child, of them 20 have been identified. Compensation of Rs 1 lakh for the deceased, Rs 50,000 for the grievously injured and Rs 25,000 for the less injured have been announced. The kin of the victims will be allowed free AC travel to and from Allahabad.

Two probes have been ordered, one by the state government and another by the Railways, to go into what triggered the stampede.

Uttar Pradesh minister Azam Khan resigned Monday as chairman of the Kumbh Mela Committee owning moral responsibility. Khan said, "Though the incident took place outside the Kumbh Mela premises, I take moral responsibility and resign as the in-charge of the Kumbh."

While the state government accused the Railways of not making adequate arrangements to deal with the rush, the Railway ministry said that had the state government dealt with the situation better, the incident could have been averted. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav virtually blamed the Railways, saying, "Everybody knows who is responsible. I do not want to say anything, but some people have pointed out."

Railway ministry's internal assessment has found that the ad-hoc bus stands for long-route travels for devotees were located at least 10 km away from the main venue, which, divisional officials have told the ministry, led to a "mass exodus of people" into railway station. The official estimate of the number of people that converged at the station between 6 and 7 pm was two to three lakh.

Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said that even if railways ran a train every 10 minutes, it would not have managed to cater to a rush of three crore people the estimated total number of devotees that converged at the Kumbh for the holy bath. "Even if we want to run trains after every 10 minutes we cannot do that because there has to be a minimum gap between two stations and safety of passengers who have boarded the trains is also equally important for us. Trains cannot run like vehicles on roads. There are 12,000 trains on Railway's 65,000-km-long route system which carries 2.3 crore passengers in a day. So all the trains cannot reach at one spot in a day as there are limitations on the part of railways to carry crores of passengers in a given day," Bansal said before leaving for Allahabad.

It is learnt that the gates did not act as access-control points. An entire entrance on the station's Civil Lines side was opened bringing in additional surges of crowd into the station premises. This gate was supposed to have been shut, as per the original plan. WITH PTI

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