Himachal Congress Walks Out Over Naina Devi Tragedy – Demand Judicial Probe

[lang_en]Monsoon Session/Shimla: With the government declining to hold a judicial inquiry into the Naina Devi tragedy that claimed 142 lives, the opposition congress today staged a walkout on the opening day of the five day monsoon session.

Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal declining the opposition demand maintained that there was no lapse on the part of the administration while making arrangements for the expected heavy pilgrimage rush during the first week of August.

He said that adequate police was deployed to regulate the movement of people for the festive occasion. There were 9 doctors on duty at the Naina Devi primary health center the day the tragedy occurred, he told the house.

By way of an explanation he said, “wet weather, which forced many people to take shelter in a rain shelter enroute, combined with thick fog, lightening and a rumor that rocks were falling appears to have caused the stampede on the route to the hilltop temple shrine.

A divisional commissioner inquiry constituted to go into the causes for the incident had submitted its report and the government was examining it, he said.

Expressing gratitude to the Punjab government and Anandpur Sahib authorities, Dhumal told the house that emergency services and post mortems were availed there for logistic reasons as it was closest to the incident site.

Opposition leader Vidya Stokes held that it was a total failure on the part of the administration that caused the tragedy on 3 August at Naina Devi.

Moving the call attention motion, she said that holding a magisterial inquiry into the incident was not enough as an official sub-servient to the government was not expected to indict the very system he or she was serving.

Congress president Kaul Singh citing the bad law and order situation as well as emergency handling operation mentioned incidences of ornaments being snatched from the bodies of dead and injured persons during the stampede.

He did make a mention of a person being declared dead having woken up in the mortuary on the next day after the incident.

Chief Minister Dhumal in response contested the ornament snatching allegations and read out a statement from a victim from Una district who lost 7 relatives that day contradicting the allegations attributed to her in media reports.

Virbhadra Singh, Stokes and Kaul Singh demanded a judicial inquiry by a sitting or retired High Court judge into the incidence to establish the truth and fix accountability. With the government trashing the demand, the opposition staged a walk out.[/lang_en]

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