Allahabad: Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal on Monday ordered a high-level inquiry into the stampede at the Allahabad Junction which claimed 36 lives, announced compensation for the victims and blamed the tragedy on tardy crowd management by the local administration.
"A three-member inquiry committee, headed by Additional Member (Traffic) of Railway Board Devi Prasad Pandey, has been formed to probe the causes that may have led to the tragedy," he told a crowded press conference here.
"A compensation of Rs one lakh each will be given to the family members of the deceased, Rs 50,000 each to those with serious injuries and Rs 25,000 each to those with minor injuries," the minister said.
"All those who have come from far-off places and wish to take their injured family members back to their homes will be provided free AC 2 tier tickets," Bansal said.
Replying to a query, the Railway Minister said "prima facie, the stampede appears to be a result of people entering the station both through the city side as well as the Civil Lines side."
"This was contrary to the plan the Railways had made in consultation with the local administration according to which crowds had to be directed only through the city side and the Civil Lines side was to be made accessible in the case of emergency with prior information to Railway officials," Bansal said.
"People should realise that Railways is not supposed to manage crowds. Its duty is to ferry people to their destinations," he said.
"Those supposed to take care of the crowd management could not do so and the tragedy occurred," Bansal said.
To pointed queries on whether he was blaming the stampede on the district administration and the Kumbh Mela administration and, by implication, the Uttar Pradesh government, Bansal replied "I have not come here to trade charges."
"I have not come here to do politics," he said.
Defending Railways` preparedness for the Mauni Amavasya festival which saw three crore pilgrims taking holy dip in the Sangam, Bansal said the Railways had been running a total of 220 special trains during February 10-13 from various stations inside and outside the city.
"Even today, we have cancelled as many as four trains scheduled to run on other routes and are pressing them into service for ferrying stranded passengers to their homes," he said.
It would not be fair to expect the Railways to arrange for the travel of three crore people if they happened to converge at one place in one day, Bansal said.
"There was no fault with the strategy and preparations. We are not even complaining that more people wanted to travel by trains than they were supposed to.
"At this stage, it can only be said that the rush of passengers from two opposite sides caused the stampede which turned a festive occasion into a tragedy," the Railway minister said.
Firmly denying allegations of baton-charge by security personnel, which has been blamed by many eye-witnesses for the stampede, Bansal said "there are more than 50 CCTV cameras installed in every corner of the station."
"I am sure the inquiry, which will involve examining the footages, will establish beyond doubt that no pilgrims were manhandled.
"If there has been any lapse on part of the Railway officials, it will come to light in the inquiry," the minister said.
"But at this moment our primary concern is to ensure that the rest of the 55-day Kumbh congregation goes off without any such tragedy," he said.
Earlier, Bansal visited various hospitals in the city where 39 people are undergoing treatment for injuries suffered in the stampede.
The Railway minister said "only three of them are in a critical condition."