Patna stampede: Bihar govt removes four senior officials including DM

The Bihar government on Sunday removed Patna District Magistrate Manish Kumar Verma, Senior Superintendent of Police Manu Maharaj along with the Divisional Commissioner and DIG of Central range as a fallout of the stampede at Gandhi Maidan which claimed 33 lives and left 29 others injured.​

Patna stampede: Bihar govt removes four senior officials including DM
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Patna: The Bihar government on Sunday removed Patna District Magistrate Manish Kumar Verma, Senior Superintendent of Police Manu Maharaj along with the Divisional Commissioner and DIG of Central range as a fallout of the stampede at Gandhi Maidan which claimed 33 lives and left 29 others injured.​

According to news reports, the state government has asked Verma to report to the DA Department till his next posting. He has been replaced with East Champaran District Magistrate Abhay Kumar Singh.

As per an official notification, Patna Divisional Commissioner N Vijaylaxmi, DIG Patna Range Ajitabh Kumar, Patna District's District Magistrate Manish Kumar Verma and Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Manu Maharaj have been shunted out.

Tirhut Divisional Commissioner Narmadeshwar Lal will take over Vijaylaxmi, reports stated. 

Though the latest round of transfers in the police and GA Department is seen as a fallout of the stampede outside the Gandhi Maidan on October three last, the state government remained tightlighted on the development with a senior minister merely saying that transfers have been effected to meet requirements of the state administration.

"Notifications have been issued for transfer of a number of IAS and IPS officials....Beyond which I would not like anything to say," Water Resources Department (WRD) Vijay Kumar Chaudhary said, PTI reported. 

Atul Prasad, who is presently posted as the Additional Member of the Revenue Board at Patna, has been made the new Muzaffarpur Divisional Commissioner till further orders in place of Narmadeshwar Lal, the notification said.

Jitendra Srivastava, presently posted as the Managing Director of the Bihar State Power Generation Company Ltd at Patna, has been made the new East Champaran District Magistrate in place of Abhay Kumar Singh.

The development took place a day after Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi had accepted that the laxity of officials could be the reason behind the stampede here during Dusshera celebrations on Friday. He had also assured that action would be taken against the culprits.

“The incident is unfortunate. We have constituted a probe to in the incident. Laxity has happened, whether on behalf of administration, 'pooja' committee, or officials. The probe will bring the truth out,” Manjhi had said.

He added that while some people are citing rumours, others are claiming that snapping of a live wire led to the chaos which triggered the incident.

“There must be some reason for the tragedy. Different people whom I talked about the incident are giving different versions. Truth would come out in the probe,” he added.

Police officials had also held the damaged 'cattle guard' or 'cattle grid' installed at the western gate of the vast ground responsible for the incident. People crossing it got trapped in them and fell down.

"There is a ditch and damaged cattle guard there for everybody to see. People could have fell on the ground because of them, leading to asphyxia and deaths," Patna Senior Superintendent of Police Manu Maharaj had said.

As the SSP reviewed the footage of CCTV cameras installed by the police around the Gandhi Maidan after the October 27, 2013, bomb blasts at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hunkar Rally, he noticed that no stampede was recorded by the cameras.

"The footage shows a very large mass of people moving and a few people fallen on the ground and others trying to rescue them. People might have fallen due to asphyxiation in that dense crowd. There is no panic fleeing captured by the CCTV cameras. Had it been a stampede people would have been running helter-skelter and in the dense crowd that was there, at least 400 or 500 people would have died," said Maharaj.

The Patna SSP, however, had said that the CCTV images remained inconclusive as there was dim light near the gate and the stretch around. He also added that the 'high-mast lights' installed near the Maidan entrance where the incident happened were not working and the cameras had no 'night vision' facilities.

Maharaj said the CCTV footage was being analysed thoroughly and that "conspiracy" cannot be ruled out behind the incident.

"We have lodged an FIR regarding the incident and a few persons are being interrogated. We will provide the details later on if anything comes out of it," added Maharaj.

Patna District Magistrate Manish Kumar Verma had also denied that any of the gates of the Gandhi Maidan were closed. He said CCTV footage was a proof of this.

Meanwhile, the panel probing the stampede incident recorded the statements of top officials and the injured today and may submit its report to the state government tomorrow.

The two-member committee, comprising Principal Home Secretary Amir Shubani and Additional Director General of Police Gupteshwar Pandey, visited the spot yesterday to inquire into Friday's stampede.

The team was constituted by the government after Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi ordered an inquiry into the incident.

But the incident has yet again put the state police in the dock, which despite two tragic incidents in the recent past, failed to enforce adequate safety measures.

Last year, the same Gandhi Maidan witnessed serial bomb blasts during a rally addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi while in 2012, a similar stampede happened at Ganga Ghat during Chhath festival.

With PTI inputs

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