Azam Khan quits as Kumbh in-charge after stampede

Lucknow, Feb 11 (IANS) The Uttar Pradesh Urban Development Minister Mohammad Azam Khan Monday quit his position as chairman of the Kumbh Management Committee, owning moral responsibility for Sunday's stampede at the Allahabad railway station that killed 36 people.

Although he maintained that the responsibility of the state government extended only to within the 58 square km Mela premises, and the railway station lay beyond that limit, Azam Khan took the high moral ground, quitting on his own.

In a related development, the chief minister dispatched senior ministers Parasnath Yadav, Durga Prasad Yadav and Chief Secretary Jawed Usmani, along with state Director General of Police (DGP) A.C. Sharma to Allahabad, asking them to personally oversee rescue and other operations.

The officials said their first priority was to provide medical services to the injured, and to help identify any unclaimed bodies.

Additional arrangements would be made for the remaining major bathing days, the first of which falls Feb 15 or Basant Panchami.

Chief Secretary Usmani said a probe has already been ordered by the chief minister, and the committee headed by the chairman of the Revenue Board would submit a report to the government as quickly as possible.

"We are trying to ascertain what led to the tragedy. Only a detailed probe can answer the questions," Usmani said.

Autopsy is being performed on the deceased. The identification of those who lost their lives in Sunday's stampede is being ascertained. Photographs are being put up outside the morgue at the medical college.

Monday, hundreds of desperate relatives thronged hospitals and railway stations for information about their loved ones, whom they feared dead and hoped were living.

Meanwhile, the Kumbh Mela administration has braced for security at the Mela premises as Basant Panchami, the day for 'Shahi Snan' - royal bathing - is slated for Friday.

Thirty-six people were earlier confirmed dead in the stampede at the Allahabad railway station Sunday night.

Amit Malaviya, a senior official with the North Central Railway (NCR), said that among the dead was an eight-year-old girl, 16 women and four men. One of the dead was a 75-year-old man.

Among those killed, three were from Madhya Pradesh, two from Bihar, three from Uttar Pradesh and the rest from Delhi, West Bengal and other places.

Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs.5 lakh to the family each of the dead and Rs. one lakh to the seriously injured.

Over three crore people turned up at the Kumbh for the Mauni Amavasya, considered the holiest of all royal bathing occasions, during the 55-day Maha Kumbh.

Two persons died at the Kumbh premises Sunday - a man died of cardiac arrest, and a woman after being pushed by the crowd.

-- Indo-Asian News Service

md/ros/vt

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