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Meerut: Mob ransacks DM's office
Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow | April 12, 2006 19:45 IST
A mob went on rampage for the second day on Wednesday in Meerut, against the administration's dilly-dallying over punishment for those whose negligence led to Monday's blaze at a local consumer fair that has so far left 36 dead and 118 injured.
Students of a local college gathered in large numbers to stage a protest against the failure of the police in arresting the organisers.
District Magistrate Ram Krishna's statement that criminal cases were already registered against the organisers was seen only as a lame excuse.
Students charged the administration in general and the DM in particular for "providing shelter" to the organisers.
"The DM had himself inaugurated the fair and he was in league with the organisers who had made big money out of the fair and both had shared the booty," was the common refrain of the agitating students. .
After much slogan shouting against the district magistrate, groups of irate students even went to the extent of ransacking the DM's office. They also demanded his suspension.
No sooner than student mobs headed for the DM's office, Ram Krishna quietly slipped out of his office to take refuge in his heavily guarded residence. That was followed by a free-for-all, while cops and other officials remained mute spectators.
Protestors have been raising their voice against what they term as "concealment of the toll by officials".
"Thousands of people were present at the fair when the fire broke out, so how can we be gullible enough to believe the official toll; we have reason to believe that a number of bodies were whisked away in police trucks and buried under the garbage at the dumping yard outside the city limits," local journalist Sunil Taneja alleged.
Taneja told this scribe, "Many bodies were crushed under bulldozers deployed in the name of removal of charred equipment and other articles put up in various stalls at the fair."
A list of 28 'missing' persons was also drawn up by the administration.
Meerut Commissioner Mohinder Singh told this scribe, "Initially, on Tuesday, we had received a list of 21 persons who were stated to be missing, but 13 of these were located among the wounded and the unidentified dead bodies kept in the mortuary."
He added, "On Wednesday morning, we received a fresh list of 20, thereby taking the figure of untraceable persons to 28 now." He went on to add, "We will leave no stone unturned to locate the missing persons."
However, strongly refuting the allegation about concealment or disposal of dead bodies, he asserted, "The allegation is absolutely baseless and ridiculous," while shooting back, "how can you even think of running bulldozers over dead bodies?"
Singh sought to point out, "This is a very, very serious matter and we have full sympathy with people whose family members are missing; we are apprised of the complaints according to which there was no trace of 28 persons. We are making every possible effort to locate them."
Meanwhile, the commissioner has also been asked to probe the disaster. Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav had earlier ordered a judicial inquiry by a sitting high court judge.
"Since we are awaiting word from the chief justice of Allahabad high court to spare a judge for the inquiry, the government has directed the divisional commissioner to carry out a probe," State Chief Secretary N C Bajpai told reporters Wednesday.
The government also ordered removal of additional district magistrate S C Dubey on account of his "irresponsible" statements.