12 killed in Vaishnodevi shrine stampede
Jammu: At least 12 devotees were killed and 15 others were injured in a stampede that occurred due to overcrowding of pilgrims at Shri Mata Vaishnodevi shrine in Katra on Saturday.
Following the incident, the J&K government ordered a high level probe by constituting a three member team headed by the Principal Secretary Home Shaleen Kabra and comprising ADGP Jammu Zone Mukesh Singh and Divisional Commissioner Jammu Dr Raghav Langer. This committee will submit its report within a week’s time to the government.
Meanwhile, the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, while condoling the death of the pilgrims, also announced an immediate ex-gratia amounting to Rs 10 lakhs for the Next of Kin (NoK) of pilgrims who lost their life in this incident. “A relief of Rs 2 lakh has been also announced for the injured pilgrims. All costs of the treatment shall be borne by the Shrine Board,” the officials said.
“At around 2:15 am, an unfortunate stampede happened near Gate Number 3 at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan. The rescue and evacuation operations were immediately launched by the Shrine Board authorities, district administration and police jointly,” the officials said.
“A total of 12 pilgrims lost their lives and 15 pilgrims were injured in the incident. The bodies of the deceased were shifted to CHC Katra for further legal formalities. The injured pilgrims were provided first aid at Medical Unit Bhawan and subsequently shifted to Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Narayana Super Specialty Hospital, Kakryal for specialised treatment. Out of the injured, 4 pilgrims were already discharged,” they added.
“Now the yatra is continuing in a regulated and smooth manner. Earlier, the yatra was stopped for some time, but it resumed later,” one of the officials said.
Soon after the incident, the rescue teams were rushed to the spot after clearing the way for the ambulances and injured pilgrims were evacuated to the hospitals. The doctors and health staff from the nearby health centres were called to the spot to help evict the injured for immediate treatment, officials added.
The deceased were also shifted to the mortuary room of the hospital for their identification and post-mortem before handing over bodies to their respective family members.
“Many families were separated in the stampede following the horrific incident which happened for the first time in Katra,” an official said. “The families of pilgrims approached the authorities to get information about their missing members,” he added. He said, “We handed over the bodies to the relatives after completing all the legal formalities following their identification.”
The deceased were identified as Dheeraj Kumar (26), son of Tarlok Kumar, resident of Nowshera, Rajouri, Shewata Singh (35), wife of Vikrant Singh, resident of Ghaziabad, UP, Vinay Kumar (24), son of Mahesh Chander, resident of Baderpur, Delhi, Sonu Pandey (24), son of Narinder Pandey, resident of Baderpur, Delhi, Mamta (38), wife of Surinder, resident of Beeri Jharjar, Haryana, Dharmveer Singh (35), resident of Salapur, Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, Vaneet Kumar (38), Vhirampal Singh, resident of Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, Dr. Arun Pratap Singh (30), son of Sat Parkash Singh, resident of Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh. The identity of three other deceased pilgrims could not be ascertained.
The injured were identified as Rishikesh (23), resident of Mumbai, Sumit, (29) resident of Pathankot, Punjab, Vikas Tiwari (35), resident of Mumbai, Ayush (25), resident of Channi, Jammu, Kapil (25) (now discharged), Nitin Garg (30), resident of Ganga Nagar, Rajasthan (also discharged from the hospital), Kiran, resident of Haryana (also discharged), Ashish Kumar Jais (25), resident of Prayag Raj, UP (also discharged), Bhawar Lal Patida, (47) Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh, Sahil Kumar (22), resident of RS Pura (Jammu district), Adhaya Mahajan (16), resident of Channi Himmat, Prashant Hada (30), resident of Jaipur, Rajasthan and Sarita (42), resident of Delhi.
The probe committee headed by Principal Secretary Home will ascertain the reason behind the tragic incident enroute to Shrine in Katra, Reasi.
“The committee shall examine in detail causes/reasons behind the incident, point out lapses, fix the responsibility and suggest appropriate Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and measures for preventing recurrence of such incidents in future,” read the order issued by Commissioner Secretary, General Administration, Civil Secretariat, J&K Government, Manoj Kumar Dwivedi.
Meanwhile Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board also issued helpline numbers for the devotees who can be approached at phone numbers 01991234804 and 01991234053.
The helplines established by the district administration include PCR Katra 01991-232010 / 9419145182, PCR Reasi 01991245076 / 9622856295; DC Reasi Control Room 01991-245763/ 9419839557.
After the incident, in a series of tweets, the office of the Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor said, “Deeply pained at the loss of lives due to stampede at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine. My condolences to the families of the deceased & prayers with the injured.”
“Spoke to Hon’ble Home Minister Shri Amit Shah Ji. Briefed him about the incident. A high level inquiry has been ordered into today’s stampede. The Inquiry Committee will be headed by Principal Secretary (Home) with ADGP, Jammu and Divisional Commissioner, Jammu as members,” Sinha said.
“Spoke to Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi Ji. Briefed him about the incident. Hon’ble Prime Minister has assured all the help. Ex-gratia of Rs 10 lakh each would be given to the next of kin of those who lost their lives due to stampede and Rs 2 lakh to injured. Shrine board to bear the cost of treatment of injured,” he added.
Late this evening, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board issued an updated statement about the incident. “An unfortunate stampede incident had occurred today at about 0215 hours near Gate No 3 at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan; that resulted in death of 12 pilgrims and injury to another 16 pilgrims. The rescue and evacuation operations were promptly launched as part of the well established SOP by the joint teams of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board authorities, district administration, Police & CRPF; and the situation was brought under control within a span of 5 minutes,” the statement read.
“The dead bodies were swiftly shifted to CHC. Katra for further medico-legal formalities. Meanwhile, the injured pilgrims after being given first-aid at the Medical Unit, Bhawan, were immediately shifted for specialised treatment to Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Super-Specialty Hospital, Kakryal. By this evening, 9 out of total 16 injured pilgrims have already been discharged; and the condition of remaining 7 pilgrims is stable who are being continuously monitored by a team of doctors,” it further read.
“The Lieutenant Governor, J&K who has been personally monitoring the whole situation since early morning also visited the Super-Specialty Hospital, Kakryal today afternoon and enquired about the health of injured pilgrims and interacted with them. He also directed the officials to ensure that the ex-gratia amount of Rs 10 lakhs for the deceased and Rs 2 lakhs for the injured, already announced by the government, should be released in favour of the legal heirs on priority in a hassle free manner,” the statement added.
“It is pertinent to mention that the Shrine Board and district administration Reasi had immediately established contact with the relatives of 12 deceased pilgrims after the incident; who hail from Uttar Pradesh (7), New Delhi (3), Haryana (1) and Rajouri, J&K (1). By today afternoon itself; 11 out of total 12 bodies were dispatched to the designated addresses; accompanied by their relatives and the Police Personnel of J&K Police. Whereas bodies of 9 pilgrims were sent by road and bodies of 2 pilgrims bound for Kanpur, UP; were sent by air from Jammu to Lucknow. The body of the remaining 1 deceased pilgrim is scheduled to be dispatched tomorrow morning by air via Jammu-Delhi flight,” the statement read.
“Meanwhile, the members of constituted inquiry committee viz ADGP Jammu Zone and Divisional Commissioner, Jammu visited the site of the incident at Bhawan today evening; and took a first-hand account. The officers interacted with CEO, SMVDSB, Deputy Commissioner Reasi, SP Katra, CO CRPF, SDM Bhawan and other officials and also scrutinised the video footage. The committee mentioned that further details are being sought after which any conclusive findings can be drawn. However, prima facie it appears that some kind of minor scuffle between few pilgrims may have led to the stampede near Gate no.3, where the pathway has a steep gradient,” the statement pointed out.
“The ADGP and Divisional Commissioner lauded the efforts of the field teams of Shrine Board, district administration, Police and CRPF; who were manning the Bhawan area; for their prompt action and bringing the situation immediately under control, thereby averting any further loss. Further, the Divisional Commissioner added that in the backdrop of NGT order and COVID protocol, the daily capping of Yatra is being strictly restricted to maximum 35,000 pilgrims per day. Meanwhile, the yatra is continuing smoothly, with approx 27,000 pilgrims having done darshan at the holy shrine today,” the statement added.
Earlier Divisional Commissioner, Jammu, Raghav Langer said bodies of four victims of the stampede were dispatched to their native places, while the process to send the rest of the bodies was in progress.
Langer, along with Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) Mukesh Singh, visited Katra – the base camp for pilgrims visiting the Vaishno Devi shrine – to take stock of the situation.
Langer and Singh are part of a high-level committee formed under instructions of Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor (L-G) Manoj Sinha and headed by the principal secretary (home) to inquire into the stampede at the shrine.
“The (Vaishno Devi) Yatra has resumed (after the stampede) and is going on smoothly,” the Divisional Commissioner told reporters at Katra as the committee visited the town to begin its probe. On complaints of mismanagement and violation of COVID-19 guidelines, the officer said the Yatra was in progress with strict adherence to the SOPs.
On the reasons that led to the stampede, Langer said the L-G had ordered a high-level probe.
“The committee has started its work and will share the details as the probe progresses,” he said.
Langer said the administration and the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board had released helpline numbers to facilitate family members of visiting pilgrims who wanted to get in touch with their dear ones.
The divisional commissioner said bodies of all deceased persons were identified, and relatives of 10 were already contacted so that the bodies could be dispatched to their hometowns.
“We are dispatching the bodies of the deceased to their home town with full respect. Two bodies have already been dispatched to Haryana and Nowshera in Rajouri district (J&K). Two more bodies were also sent off to Delhi,” he said.
The divisional commissioner said the condition of all the injured persons was “stable.”
“Out of 15 injured admitted to the Mata Vaishno Devi Narayana Superspeciality Hospital at Kakriyal, four were discharged and the rest are stable,” Langer, who along with other members of the committee visited the hospital to enquire about the condition of the pilgrims, said.
He said the priority of the administration is to provide the best possible treatment to the injured. “The condition of all the injured is stable and a team of doctors are monitoring them,” he added.