- “Unlimited devotees allowed without Covid directives”
- The PM deplores the loss of life
Jammu: Twelve people lost their lives and more than a dozen others were injured in a stampede at the famous Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu and Kashmir in the early hours of the morning when a large influx of worshipers on the day of the ‘Year.
This is the first such tragedy at the shrine, located atop the Trikuta Hills – about 50 km from here – which attracts thousands of people every year.
The incident happened between 2:30 a.m. and 2:45 a.m. on Saturday near a relatively narrow passage at gate number 3 outside the shrine of the hilltop shrine where worshipers typically arrive around the clock. 24 after trekking from Katra base camp, nearly 13 km away.
A high level investigation was ordered into the stampede by Lieutenant Governor (LG) Manoj Sinha, led by Principal Secretary (Interior) Shaleen Kabra along with Divisional Commissioner Jammu Rajiv Langar and Additional Police Director General Mukesh Singh as members.
Condolences poured in from all quarters and Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Sinha and Union Minister Jitendra Singh to take stock of the situation.
According to eyewitness accounts, the number of worshipers exceeded the permitted level with a blatant violation of COVID-19 standards, and some of the survivors accused the administration of Jammu and Kashmir of “mismanagement”.
The board of directors of the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi shrine, however, denied the charges, saying all necessary arrangements had been made due to the expected rush.
Most of the deaths are due to suffocation, police said, adding that among those who died, seven are from Uttar Pradesh, three from Delhi and one from Haryana and J&K.
Police Director General Dilbag Singh, who accompanied PMO State Minister Jitendra Singh on the shrine visit after the stampede, told reporters the incident happened due to confusion or “probably someone on the site acted in a funny way, which could have led to an altercation”.
“All of these things are under consideration. This area is a bit narrow and people have been running around without knowing the reason. Most of the deaths are due to suffocation after crashing and most of the injuries are also due to the same reason, ”he said.
Singh said preliminary information from the scene suggests there was a minor altercation between some of the boys, and within seconds there was a stampede.
“The police and civil administration officials reacted quickly and order in the crowd was immediately restored, but by then the damage was done,” he said.
Prem Singh, from Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, said there was a “complete mess” because neither the number of pilgrims was limited nor the COVID-19 guidelines in place.
“It was a ‘free for all’ type of situation. A lot of people did not have mandatory masks, ”he said, claiming that the police personnel on duty at the checkpoint had surrendered to the strong rush and were warning people of the possibility of such. accident.
“Nothing but mismanagement was at the origin of this tragic accident. They were aware of the possible rush but allowed people to enter unimpeded, ”said a pilgrim from Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh while waiting outside a mortuary to identify a body.
A lot of people were resting on the ground, instead of coming in, and this caused more haste to the bhawan, he added.
Another man, who lost his friend Arun Pratab Singh (30), said they were from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh. The neighborhood was overcrowded, he said.
Aditya Sharma, a pilgrim, said there had been a large influx of worshipers and some people sleeping on the floor were run over.
Senior officials at the scene said 12 people died in the stampede and their bodies were taken to Katra base camp hospital.
The deceased have been identified as Arun Pratab Singh (30), Dharam Veer Singh (35), Vineet Kumar (38), Shewata Singh (35), Mohinder Gour (26), Narinder Kashap (40) ) and Monu Sharma (32) from Uttar. Pradesh, Vinay Kumar (24), Sonu Panday (24) and Akash Kumar (29) from Delhi, Mamta (38) from Haryana and Desraj Kumar (26) from Rajouri district in Jammu and Kashmir , officials said.
Fifteen wounded were being treated at the Mata Vaishno Devi Narayana specialized hospital and two of them were deemed to be in critical condition. Some were released after first aid, they added.
An hour after the incident, pilgrims were allowed to the site again, officials said, adding that the yatra had not been disturbed.
Prime Minister Modi said the central government is in constant contact with the JK administration to help those affected.
Speaking during a program to release funds under the PM-KISAN program, Modi said he was “extremely saddened by the loss of life due to a stampede in Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan. Condolences to bereaved families May the wounded recover soon “.
The JK administration has announced relief of Rs 10 lakh for the deceased and Rs 2 lakh for the injured, which will be paid by the sanctuary council.
In a series of tweets, the office of the lieutenant governor of Jammu and Kashmir expressed sorrow over the loss of life and gave details of who had informed Sinha after the stampede which included the prime minister and minister of the Interior Amit Shah.
PMO tweeted that “an ex gratia of Rs 2 lakh each from PMNRF would be given to the next of kin of those who lost their lives due to the stampede in Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan. The injured would be given Rs 50,000: PM @narendramodi ”.
Union Minister Jitendra Singh said innovative measures are needed to deal with the new trend of young people wanting to visit Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine on the first day of the New Year.
The minister also visited worshipers injured in treatment at the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Narayana super-specialty hospital in Kakriyal.
“Traditionally, pilgrims came on feast days like Navratras, Dussehra and Deepavali. This is a new trend and we need to take action on it (young people visiting on New Years), ”he said, adding that“ when we sit down and talk we will talk about innovation. and technology to find a solution to the problem ”.
President Ram Nath Kovind said he was very distressed to learn of the stampede and offered his condolences to the bereaved families. “I wish the injured a speedy recovery,” he said.
Union Home Secretary Amit Shah said he was deeply saddened by the tragic accident.
“Deeply saddened by the tragic accident at the Mata Vaishno Devi temple. In this regard, I spoke to J&K Lieutenant Governor Shri Manoj Sinha. The administration is constantly working to treat the injured. I extend my condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in this accident, ”Shah tweeted in Hindi.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said: “The stampede at Mata Vaishno Devi temple is tragic. I offer my condolences to the families of the deceased.
Top BJP leader and former lawmaker Devender Singh Rana, who interacted with pilgrims here to provide an update, said the incident was the first of its kind to occur at the shrine.
“It is a tragic incident and a sad moment for all of us. The entire administration is working to ensure that the bodies are returned to their families and that the injured receive adequate treatment,” he said. declared.
“Now is not the time for allegations or counter-allegations. It is a tragedy that has happened and no one should make a policy about it, ”he added.
Political parties in Kashmir, including the National Conference and the People’s Conference, have expressed sorrow over the incident.
The PDP said such “mismanagement” was unheard of in recent times. “Our sincere condolences go out to the families who have lost their loved ones and pray for a speedy recovery of the injured,” he said in a tweet.
Officials there said the incident was sparked by a large influx of worshipers who came to pay their respects to mark the start of the new year.
While most of the devotees undertake the arduous trek, some do it by helicopter. PTI