Pushkaram stampede: Inquiry commission gives clean chit to Andhra Pradesh government

Amaravati: The one-man commission, which inquired into the Godavari Maha Pushkaram's stampede that claimed 29 lives at Rajamahendravaram on 14 July, 2015, has given a clean chit to the Chandrababu Naidu-led government and blamed the media for the tragedy.

The Justice CY Somayajulu commission has concluded that it could have occurred due to overcrowding of pilgrims caused by "undue and unwarranted publicity "about the time at which the Pushkarams (river festival) was going to be inaugurated.

 Pushkaram stampede: Inquiry commission gives clean chit to Andhra Pradesh government

File image of Chandrababu Naidu. Reuters

"The stampede could have occurred due to overcrowding of pilgrims near the Pushkar Ghat, which cannot be doubted or disputed. The undue and unwarranted publicity about the time at which pushkarams are going to be inaugurated by the chief minister may be a cause for the huge gathering of people near the Pushkar Ghat, hoping thereafter the chief minister finishes his bath," the report of the Commission, headed by the retired judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court, said.

The report was tabled in the state Legislative Assembly on Wednesday.

"The media, which became an important instrument of publicity and promotion of products and personalities, brought its own share of misery and inconvenience to the public at large....," the report said.

Rebutting claims that the stampede took place because of the restrictions placed on general public due to the presence of the chief minister at the ghat, the retired judge asserted that the stampede took place after the chief minister finished the bath and went to his van for changing.

The commission also blamed the Opposition parties for casting aspersions and criticising the chief minister.

"Contemporary situation reveals that the parties who are not in power, or the parties who are not friendly or at loggerheads with the party in rule, or their leaders, seize any and every opportunity or event, calamity or untoward incidents to cast aspersions on the party in power and resort to mudslinging and always try to find fault with the leader of the party in power," it said.

"They become intolerant even to a single lapse," it added.

At the same time, the commission was all praise for the state government saying it planned the event (Godavari Maha Pushkarams) well to promote Brand Godavari "with one year of prior planning and with an estimated expenditure running into Rs 1500 crore."

"The idea was not to confine it to the two Godavari districts only but promote it in all 13 districts (of the state), neighbouring states and across north India besides reaching Indian diaspora," it said.

The state government started a high decibel media campaign for this purpose as early as in 2014.

"(It) assumed the role of a religious organisation and people of the state were welcomed for pushkarams in large numbers," the commission said.

"The grand opening ceremony, laser shows, huge display of sky lanterns were instrumental in the mega marketing of this spiritual event," it said.

"Mushroom growth of all types of news and devotional channels, which have their own captive viewers, also recorded their phenomenal growth in this century. Print, audio and visual media started making money by advertisements and became money spinners, like many popular devotional channels who have a large viewership and they tried to encash the opportunity to promote their channels," the commission added.

Updated Date: Sep 19, 2018 23:36:30 IST