JHABUA: Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his Cabinet colleague Antar Singh Arya were allegedly heckled today while they were en route to the site at Petlawad town where a massive blast caused by mining explosives left 89 people dead.
Chouhan and Arya were stopped at the new bus stand square close to the tragedy site by angry protesters, including Congressmen, who came out on the roads in large numbers shouting slogans against the state government and district administration, alleging that it had not taken appropriate steps to prevent the tragedy, eyewitnesses said.
The locals said the huge pile of explosives should not have been stored in a building at a public place, according to the law.
They demanded stern action against the concerned officials for the lapse. The protesters also shouted slogans demanding the sacking of District Collector Aruna Gupta and also allegedly manhandled the area's Sub- Divisional Officer of Police (SDOP) A R Khan, who tried the clear the way for the Chief Minister.
Gauging the public anger, Chouhan and Arya squatted on the ground after being gheraoed and gave a patient hearing to the protesters for more than 15 minutes before leaving for the mishap site, the eyewitnesses said.
Earlier, Chouhan and Arya, who is the district guardian minister, visited the injured persons at the Petlawad community health centre. At least 89 people were killed and nearly 100 injured yesterday after a massive blast caused by mining explosives stored in a building ripped through a crowded area in Petlawad town here.
The blast completely destroyed at least two buildings--one in which explosive material for digging wells was stored and an adjacent restaurant, and damaging several houses, officials said.
The CM had yesterday ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident and also announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each to kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for those injured.
Meanwhile, Chouhan said he will stay put in Petlawad town till normalcy is restored there. "I will stay here till normalcy is restored and oversee the relief work myself. I will stay here tomorrow and day after tomorrow and after that if the situation demands and meet every family affected by the tragedy," Chouhan told reporters here.
He said the state government will request the MP High Court to appoint a sitting judge to probe the explosion. "Guilty will be punished at all cost and no one is going to be spared," he assured.
He also said that the financial help of Rs 2 lakh announced for each of the deceased's families will be reviewed and might be enhanced. Apart from Rs 50,000, free treatment will be provided to the injured, he said.
Saturday, he said, turned out to be the "saddest day of his life" and pledged to firmly stands by the families of the victims in their hour of grief.
The state government has launched a drive to ensure that the explosives for mining works are not stored in public areas, he said.
Meanwhile, the CM visited a family of one of the deceased and announced a help of Rs 5 lakh to them after learning that they had lost their bread-earner in yesterday's tragedy.