At least 20 people were killed, many of them women, and scores of others injured on Sunday night in a stampede at the Allahabad railway station that was teeming with thousands of pilgrims returning after a holy dip at the Maha Kumbh here.
The stampede occurred at 7 pm when Platforms No 5 and 6 were packed with thousands of passengers.
Eyewitnesses said the stampede was triggered when the railing leading to the foot overbridge over Platform no 6 collapsed when hundreds of passengers rushed to board a train. They said there was a sudden surge after an announcement over the public address system on the arrival of the train.
The railway station is about eight km away from the tent township of an impromptu Kumbh city on the banks of the Sangam confluence of three holy rivers — Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati.
The inexperience of the local police force came to the fore when the personnel, instead of pacifying the harried crowd and urging them to stay calm, resorted to lathi charge which triggered more chaos.
It was Mauni Amavasya, the most auspicious day of the Maha Kumbh, and the mela administration had anticipated a huge turnout of devotees for bathing.
However, throughout the day, there was utter confusion and chaos all around the Kumbh city and the swelling crowds could not be controlled by the police and civic administration. The security forces remained mute spectators even as women and children in many places fainted due to shortage of water and eatables and the aged struggled to make their way out of the mela area.
Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal denied that the platform railing broke. “As per my information, the railing did not break. We are trying to verify this.” He further said, “Our senior officials have reached the spot and are planning to send 50 special trains besides the 112 trains that pass through the section daily so that passengers can reach their destinations safely.”