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UP stampede toll 21, PM rushing to Lucknow
April 12, 2004 15:37 IST
Last Updated: April 12, 2004 17:59 IST
At least 21 women were killed and scores injured on Monday in a stampede that broke out when Bharatiya Janata Party leader Lalji Tandon was distributing sarees to mark his birthday in Lucknow.
Cutting short his election campaign in Jharkhand, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is rushing to his constituency in the wake of the tragedy.
The Prime Minister has expressed shock and grief over the incident and extended his heartfelt sympathies to the bereaved families, PMO sources in Delhi said. Vajpayee has sought details of the incident from the state government.
The tragedy occurred around 1430 IST at Chandrashekhar Azad Park where nearly 10,000 women, many carrying infants and accompanied by their children, had gathered to collect sarees.
Tandon, Vajpayee's election agent, had left the venue before the incident took place.
Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav has asked Lucknow Commissioner D C Lakha to conduct an inquiry. Senior Superintendent of Police Rajiv Ranjan Verma, who along with the District Magistrate Aradhana Sharma visited various hospitals where the injured were admitted, said 21 women died in the incident.
Though the exact cause was not known, Sharma said, "Excitement and clamour" among the women to grab sarees may have led to the stampede.
Witnesses said the stampede broke out when the organisers announced that the function was over and the women could leave after collecting sarees from a counter near the exit gate.
"Suddenly a large number of women jostled with one another to reach the distribution point and collect the gift," said a shocked Komal Maurya, who was among the crowd.
The venue was littered with chappals and shoes, which bore mute testimony to the tragedy, even as undistributed heaps of newly packed sarees lay at a counter.
Denying that the stampede occurred due to mismanagement, Tandon told PTI that measures had been taken for orderly distribution of sarees. He said it was a private function organised by his well-wishers and friends to celebrate his birthday.
The SSP said action would be taken against the organisers of the function as prohibitory orders were in force in the city in view of the parliamentary polls and the administration had not been informed about it.
The state government has decided to give an ex-gratia of Rs 100,000 to the kin of those killed, Rs 50,000 each to the seriously injured and Rs 25,000 to those with minor injuries and has sought the Election Commission's permission to hand over the money.