Lack of coordination between various depts: HC

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Kochi, Jan 20 (PTI) Kerala High Court today observedthat there was lack of coordination between variousdepartments, causing the Sabarimala stampede in which 102pilgrims were killed, as the police, forest department and thetemple Board indulged in a blame game in their reports on thetragedy.

A division bench, comprising Justices Thothathil BRadhakrishnan and P S Gopinathan made the observation afterthree separate reports by DGP Jacob Punnose, TravancoreDevaswom Board Commissioner N Vasu and Principal ChiefConservator of Forests T M Manoharan came up before it.

The reports were filed in compliance with the deadlineby the court which had on Monday pulled up the stategovernment over neglecting its earlier warnings over safety.

The bench today wanted to know why Pullmedu near thehill shrine was out of the zone of consideration for providingadequate security to pilgrims.

It also directed the Union Government to inform itsviews on permitting pilgrims through Pulmedu in Iddukkidistrict, part of the Periyar Tiger Reserve.

The bench directed Assistant Solicitor General T PIbrahim Khan, to file a counter affidavit on this andpossibilities of permitting temporary use of required land inthe sanctuary for ''Makara Vilakku'' festival.

Advocate General C P Sudhakara Prasad told the courtthat Home secretary''s report would be filed by tomorrow.

The DGP claimed in his report that adequate policeforce was deployed at Pullmedu, with 279 policemen, includingtwo DYSPs, on duty to regulate the crowd. There was no lighton the spot of occurence of the mishap, he said.

About 1400 passes were seen given by the Forestdepartment to three wheelers and four wheelers. There was noplace marked for parking. Around 1.25 lakh devotees gatheredat Pullmedu by evening, he said.

He said there was an accident involving anautorickshaw and a jeep. The three wheeler fell on the jeepparked nearby. Since there was flow of pilgrims, this causedfurther tripping and in the commotion, many fell down. Therewas a heavy flow of pilgrims even at that point of time, hesaid.

He claimed sufficient police personnel had been postedin the area to deal with problems of "such a great magnitude."(MORE) PTI COR UD APR RA

Travancore Devaswom Board Commissioner, N Vasu, in his report said at no time in the past or now was the Board (whichmanages the shrine) given permission to provide facilities topilgrims at Pullmedu. This is not an ''edathavalam'' (approvedresting place for pilgrims), TDB counsel submitted.

Pointing out that neither sufficient police nor forestofficials were present to control or guide pilgrims, it saiddispute between autorickshaw and jeep drivers caused chaos,ultimately resulting in the stampede.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, T M Manoharan,in his report claimed the forest department had taken allsafeguards.

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