Kerala to seek judicial probe into Sabarimala tragedy

Saturday, January 15, 2011

KUMILY - Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan Saturday announced that the government will seek a judicial probe into the Sabarimala-Pulumedu stampede. The updated toll in the tragedy, according to the Idukki district administration, is 102.

The announcement comes even as a similar judicial probe into the Thekkady boat accident in 2008 that left 45 people dead could not so far go beyond just one sitting.

Arriving by a naval helicopter from Kannur, Achuthanandan told reporters that the government will grant a compensation of Rs.500,000 to the families of each of the deceased. Also Rs.50,000 will be granted to the seriously injured and Rs.25,000 to those with minor injuries.

The stampede occurred around 8.00 p.m. Friday when the pilgrims were returning after watching the Makara Jyothi light, the most important event of the pilgrimage, from a hillock some 30 km from the Sabarimala temple.

Apart from the 102 dead, around 50 people have been injured in the tragedy. Except for three people from Kerala, the rest of the victims are from neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

The chief minister’s announcement of a judicial probe comes at a time when a similar probe into the Thekkady boat tragedy in 2008 that left 45 people dead could hold only one sitting so far — on Dec 20, 2010.

The boat capsize happened only about 16 km from Kumily in the Periyar lake. It was at the very same Kumily hospital where autopsies were conducted Oct 1, 2008.

The last time a judicial inquiry by a sitting high court judge took place was in the mid-1990s. After that, even though successive governments wanted probes into various issues by a sitting judge, it never happened because the high court judges here have been burdened with court duties.

Meanwhile, Hindu Aikya Vedi leader Kummanam Rajasekharan came down heavily on the way the authorities have been organising the Sabarimala pilgrimage.

“This is one of the most crowded religious places in the world. But the facilities and amenities for the lakhs of devotees are most appalling. More than a lakh pilgrims were at Pulumedu where the tragedy occurred and the place has no lights or even the basic amenities,” said Rajasekharan.

Successive state governments have ignored two reports - in 1992 and 2007 - on improving the facilities at Sabarimala.

The 2007 report submitted by retired justice K.S. Paripoornan recommended a committee consisting of a high court judge, besides having representatives from the pilgrims and other government officials.

Another recommendation includes measures to ensure safety of pilgrims besides widening of the main roads leading to the base camp at Pamba. The report remains in cold storage.

Filed under: Accidents and Disasters

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