High Court pulls up Kerala govt over Sabarimala stampede

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Kochi, Jan 17 (PTI) The Kerala High Court today pulledup the state government for ignoring its warning on safety ofSabarimala pilgrims and ordered authorities to explain byThursday how the stampede that killed 102 devotees occured.

Taking suo motu notice of the tragedy at Pulmedu nearthe famous hill shrine on Friday night, a division bench thatis monitoring the affairs relating to Sabarimala pilgrimagealso observed there had been lack of co-ordination amongvarious departments involved in conduct of the annual''Mandalam-Makaravilakku'' festival.

The festival attracts millions of pilgrims during thetwo-month long season from mid-November.

The bench comprising justices Thottathil Radhakrishnanand P S Gopinathan directed police and forest departments asalso the Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the templeaffairs, to furnish detailed reports on the causes that led toone of the worst pilgrimage tragedies in recent times.

The judges recalled that they had given a warning tothe authorities on January five about the need to regulate theflow of pilgrims to avoid disasters like the latest stampede.

"We want to know what had happened. Explain how themishap occurred," the judges said while giving the direction.

The court also sought to know from government detailsof the help provided to the injured and those stranded in thePulmedu route in the forest area after the tragedy.

The stampede occured when Ayyappa devotees werereturning home after witnessing ''makar jyoti'', considered adivine celestial phenomenon. Most of the victims hailed fromthe neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and AndhraPradesh.

Kerala government has announced a judicial inquiryinto the tragedy.

Lack of basic amenities like lighting, water supplyand camping facilities, coupled with insufficient policedeployment were blamed for the incident.

Though Pulmedu route has been used by pilgrims fromTamil Nadu for long, there have been complaints of lack ofcomprehensive security and crowd management plans in theforest area.

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