Thiruvananthapuram, April 13: The Kerala government today requested the Centre to immediately declare the Puttingal Devi temple tragedy that claimed 113 lives and left several injured as a national calamity.
"The Centre should take necessary steps to declare the tragedy as a national calamity without delay," Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told reporters after a cabinet meeting which reviewed steps taken so far in the aftermath of the April 10 tragedy.
The Chief Minister said the all-party meeting called tomorrow would try to arrive at a consensus on formulating a policy on bringing about restriction on fireworks. Chandy said a section in society was not in favour of stopping traditional practices and rituals based on faith. However, another group felt 'this kind' of calamity should not happen in future, he said, adding government has to find a solution, taking into consideration the views of both.
The Chief Minister said DNA tests to identify bodies still in hospitals has begun and would be completed soon. A total of 13 bodies are still to be identified.
Chandy said police had received complaints that 21 persons were missing after the tragedy in the area and quoted experts as having stated that there was a possibility that the entire body of a person would have been charred, making even DNA testing difficult.
Government's priority now was to provide the best possible treatment to the injured being treated in hospitals, he said. Chandy said a cabinet sub-committee of Ministers, comprising Adoor Prakesh, V S Sivakumar and Shibu Baby John, would visit the accident site tomorrow and take stock of the losses suffered in the area.
"A rehabilitation and compensation package would be decided, based on the committee's report," he said. Flaying CPI(M) State Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan for demanding resignation of Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala in the wake of the tragedy, he said "some are trying to politicise the mishap. It is very unfortunate and not correct".
He recalled the stampede at Sabarimala and Thekkady boat tragedy during the previous LDF rule and said UDF, then in the opposition, had not sought resignation of Balakrishnan, who was Home Minister. "At a time like this, we all have to work unitedly to help the victims. Balakrishnan's statement was very unfortunate," Chandy said.
Asked about the delay in fixing responsibility for the mishap, he said a case has been registered and probe is on. "It is not fair on my part to make a comment as the probe is on." However, Chandy made it clear that any person found guilty for the mishap would be brought before justice.
The CM declined to comment on Kollam District Collector's report that District police had failed to prevent the fireworks display, despite a ban issued by the authorities.