The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Allegations fly over stampede

Lucknow, Oct. 3: After the tragedy, the blame game.

Railway officials in Lucknow have contested chief minister Mayavati’s charge that they were responsible for the October 28 stampede at Charbagh railway station. The rush resulted in the death of 21 Bahujan Samaj Party activists who were returning from a rally.

Earlier, the Uttar Pradesh chief minister had called on Atal Bihari Vajpayee to present the state government’s report blaming the railway officials. The Prime Minister asked railway minister Nitish Kumar to probe the incident. Vajpayee also announced a compensation of Rs 50,000 from the Prime Minister’s relief fund for the next of kin of each of the deceased.

While Mayavati claimed in Delhi that a last-minute change of platform by local railway staff led to the stampede, the railway officials said overcrowding caused the tragedy and blamed the state administration for its inability to control the crowd.

Kamlesh Gupta, divisional railway manager, Lucknow, said Kumar had set up a three-member committee to probe the incident and that minister of state for railways A.K. Moorthy was coming to Lucknow tomorrow in this connection. Gupta said railway officials were not consulted before Uttar Pradesh principal secretary (planning) S.N. Jha finalised his report and Mayavati submitted it to the Centre.

The accusations and counter-allegations are likely to intensify. Mayavati is insisting that those responsible for the tragedy should be punished. Besides Vajpayee, she had also called on deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and Kumar.

Gupta, on his part, said: “Civil authorities should have prevented the crowds from entering the railway station. It was also the responsibility of the Government Railway Police to tell the authorities that they cannot control the crowds. They did not inform the GRP and the GRP did not communicate with the civil authorities.”

He maintained that there was no last-minute change of platform, as alleged by Mayavati. “The trains were detained by people sitting on the tracks,” Gupta added.

He contradicted the state government’s claim that railway authorities had been informed in advance about the crowds and asked to make arrangements for their return journey.

“Normally, the demand for special trains is made one month in advance,” he said. “But in this case, had they made the demand by paying fare even three days in advance, the railways would have made necessary arrangements.”

The officer pointed out that when BSP leaders made a formal demand after the stampede, the railways arranged 10 special trains to handle the rush. The BSP is yet to pay for these special trains.

Gupta also said that though the nine platforms of Charbagh station together have the capacity to accommodate 5,000 passengers, more than 70,000 had thronged the station that day.

“The situation,” he added, went out of control because the civil authorities did nothing to regulate the crowd.”

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