RJD chief Lalu Prasad on Tuesday hinted that chief minister Nitish Kumar was “not serious” in ensuring security of Chhath devotees as much as that of his Adhikar Rally participants.
While inspecting preparations for the Adhikar Rally at Gandhi Maidan earlier this month, Nitish had told his supporters that at least 200 labourers should be made to jump on the stage to see if it could endure their weight.
“Why did not the district administration evaluate how many people could get on the chechri (makeshift bamboo bridge)? Nitish had installed a maut ka chechri (bridge of death) for the Chhath devotees,” Lalu said.
He added that the Sun God would “take revenge” for the victims against Nitish because it was the state government’s responsibility to make preparations for the Chhath festival and ensure safety of the devotees. Lalu flew from New Delhi to Patna to meet relatives of the deceased.
He announced a compensation of Rs 50,000 from his party fund for each of the bereaved family. Lalu and his wife Rabri Devi have been celebrating Chhath in Patna for over two decades. This year, he celebrated the festival in Delhi. “We used to celebrate Chhath in Patna. But on finding that our presence caused disturbances for the devotees on the ghats, we decided to celebrate the festival in our residence.”
Referring to Nitish’s statement that nobody should poli-ticise the tragedy, Lalu said: “The chief minister and his cabinet colleagues have politicised the festival. There were bills and posters all around featuring the chief minister and claiming that the government had made all arrangements for the festival.” He added: “After Nitish went to Pakistan, deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi clai-med that he had taken charge of the Chhath preparations.”
Lalu said when he and his wife ruled the state, plying of boats was banned during Chhath and the banks of the river used to be barricaded to prevent devotees going deep into the water. “But the Nitish Kumar government constructed a bamboo bridge and brought the pontoon bridge installed by me at Adalat Ghat. They claimed to have made arrangements for the devotees along both sides of the river,” he added.
A six-member NDA delegation, led by Sushil Kumar Modi, also met the bereaved families and handed them compensation cheques.
Road construction minister Nand Kishore Yadav and food and civil supplies minister Shyam Rajak were part of the team. Nitish, on the other hand, cancelled the lunch he had hosted for JD(U) leaders on Wednesday because of the tragedy. The lunch was to be hosted to celebrate the success of November 4 Adhikar Rally.