M A I N   N E W S

It was a tragedy waiting to happen
Mohit Khanna
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, August 3
With poor infrastructure, ill-maintained roads and well over 1.50 lakh devotees paying obeisance everyday during the sawan mela, a tragedy was waiting to happen at the Naina Devi shrine.

Many Ludhiana residents run special community kitchens (bhandaras) at the shrine. One of them, Naresh Jain, the caretaker of Maa Jagdambay Sewa Ashram at Naina Devi, told this reporter over the phone, “The tragedy was bound to happen as the authorities have failed to provide adequate infrastructure. During the time of sawan mela there is complete chaos at Bhawan area and authorities fail to tackle situation.” He said that several requests to the authorities had fallen on deaf ears. He said at the time of the incident, there were more than 35,000 people queuing up from Bhawan area to Kohal Wala Tobha, from where the yatra starts.

As per some eyewitnesses, few devotees tried to jump the queue and climbed roofs of the shops, a common practice during the sawan mela.

The devotees who scaled the rooftops were electrocuted due to contact with high-tension wires accidentally. The sudden incident created panic amongst the devotees and consequently there was a stampede. Suresh Kumar, a resident of civil lines, here who suffered minor bruises in the stampede said the organisers should have made elaborate arrangements for the rush which was an annual feature. He blamed those who jumped the queue as being responsible for the tragic incident.



Lack of medical aid aggravates agony
Megha Mann
Tribune News Service

Anandpur Sahib, August 3
The stampede left hundreds crying for medical attention. Injured pilgrims were left to fend for themselves. Teams of doctors and paramedics from Shimla and Una reached late in the afternoon.

Only local shopkeepers and other pilgrims lent a helping hand to the injured in distress and relatives of the deceased. "I pulled out two men and a boy from the commotion. Since there were no stretchers available, victims all the way cried for help", said Naveen, a devotee from Sangrur.

The nearest hospital in Bilaspur is 70 km away and there is only a government primary health centre near the temple. “There was no stretcher to carry the victims of tragedy and even the seriously injured could be given just first aid,” he said.

People were seen carrying injured on their shoulders and in private cars. Government officials and medical aid came much later, said another rescuer, Rohit. The bodies were brought to Anandpur Sahib civil hospital to for post- mortem examinations.

The temple where lakhs of devotees arrive every year, the government should have to adopt a pro-active approach and must have foreseen such tragedy, said Sandeep Mittal (65), who had come from Pathankot.

To reach the hospital at Bilaspur as one has to drive on mountainous roads and tracks. The hospital at Anandpur Sahib too is ill- equipped to deal with such a tragedy, said devotees. People were seen carrying serious devotees in a haphazard manner amidst chaos on road and traffic jams on bumpy roads.



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