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HC raps Kerala govt over Sabarimala stampede

January 20, 2011 17:35 IST

The Kerala high court on Thursday came down on the state government for failing to foresee the Pulmedu stampede in which 102 pilgrims were killed.

"If you provide unrestricted flow of pilgrims, necessary safeguards need to be issued or completely prevent the pilgrims from taking the Pullmedu route," a division bench comprising Justice Thothathil B Radhakrishnan and Justice P S Gopinathan said.

The bench has been monitoring the Sabarimala pilgrim season since January 5.
The bench observed that there was lack of coordination between various departments which led to the tragedy that occurred as the pilgrims were returning after witnessing the Makara Jyothi (celestial light).

The judges also wanted to know if Makara Jyothi, to witness which lakhs of pilgrims converge at Sabarimala every year, was man made or celestial.

Reacting to the court's comments, Chief Minister V S Ahutanandan told reporters at Thiruvananthapuram that his government had no plans to probe if it was a divine phenomenon or man-made exercise as the whole issue was a matter of faith for millions.

"The government is neither going to consult astrologers nor scientists to ascertain the veracity of Makara Jyothi, which millions believe as divine and throng the temple with an intense wish to sight it," he said.

The court also asked the Centre to file its views on permitting pilgrims through Pullmedu, which is part of the Periyar Tiger Reserve.

On the court's directions, Kerala Director General of Police Jacob Punnose, Trvancore Devaswom Board Commissioner N Vasu and Principal Chief Conservator of Forest T M Manoharan filed separate reports on the tragedy.

While DGP Jacob Punnose in his report stated that nearly 279 policemen, including two deputy superintendents of police and a circle inspector, had been deployed to regulate the crowd and 1,400 passes were given by the Forest Department to three wheelers and four wheelers, the TDB Commissioner said not enough police and forest officials were there to guide the pilgrims on the route. The forest department claimed that it had taken all necessary safeguards.

The Kerala government has decided to set up a special team of officials for the delivery of the compensation amount of Rs 6 lakh each for the families of the 102 devotees who were killed in the stampede.

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