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The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Public hearing, in true spirit
Subhani quizzes stampede witnesses

The public hearing of Chhath stampede was conducted on Friday in the presence of all eyewitnesses unlike Thursday.

The Telegraph had reported that home department principal secretary Amir Subhani did not stick to the “spirit” of public hearing on Thursday. He had conducted the proceedings in a closed room and met the witnesses individually.

When asked about conducting a public hearing in a closed room with one- by-one interaction, Subhani said: “There are many people who do not feel comfortable in front of the camera. They may not be able to record their statements with confidence. That is why I had asked reporters to leave the room before recording the statements of the witnesses. Today (Friday), I will meet everyone in a conference hall (at the collectorate).”

Around 25 eyewitnesses turned up for the hearing on Friday. Patna Municipal Corporation commissioner Pankaj Kumar Pal and superintendent of Patna Medical College Hospital O.P. Chaudhary were also present.

As many as 17 persons, including nine children, died in the stampede on the third day of Chhath.

Introducing himself to the gathering, Subhani said: “I am Amir Subhani, the principal secretary, home. I am the one who has been asked to probe into the stampede incident during Chhath. First, I want all of you to introduce yourself one by one.

“I want all of you to help the government. I am sure you will give the best effort. I am happy that you have come for the public hearing.”

After Sabzibagh resident Sanjay Kumar Jha intro-duced himself to the prin-cipal secretary, Subhani asked him: “Can you tell me for how many years the jhuggi-jhopri (shanty) has been there in the lane that leads to Adalat Ghat. Why was that lane blocked this time?”

Jha replied: “Beggars constructed houses in the lane many years ago. They are the ones who block the lane.” The choked lane led to tremendous overcrowding that resulted in panic and stampede.

Subhani kept asking questions to the eyewitnesses in front of the reporters. Most of the eyewitnesses narrated the ordeal they had seen on the fateful day. Later, during the probe, the principal secretary asked reporters to leave the conference hall.

After the interaction with the eyewitnesses, Subhani asked them to give their statements in writing.

“After writing down the statement, anyone who is willing to meet me personally to share something else is most welcome,” Subhani said.

A few met Subhani in the office of the district magistrate.