KOLLAM: Political parties in poll-bound Kerala are cashing in on the Kollam temple tragedy that claimed 113 lives, with opposition CPI-M demanding resignation of the state Home Minister and the Congress-led UDF government asking the Centre to declare it as a national calamity.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the "attempt to politicise" the tragedy was "very unfortunate" and the effort should be to focus all attention on rescue and rehabilitation of the victims.
"The government is fully focused on providing best facilities to those undergoing treatment at Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram hospitals," he said referring to CPI(M)'s criticism of the government in the aftermath of the tragedy.
CPI(M) state Secretary Kodieryi Balakrishnan and politbureau member Pinarayi Vijayan have demanded that Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala tender his resignation.
"Government is responsible for the tragedy and the Home minister was unfit to remain in the post. The Kerala High Court had also strongly criticised the government," Vijayan said.
He alleged the officials who tried to stop the conduct of the fireworks display were being "silenced using government machinery".
Kollam Collector A Shainamol and Additional District Magistrate A Shahnawaz had denied permission for conducting the fireworks display.
The ADM today denied reports that he had given "oral" permission to the committee members to conduct the fireworks display.
"I have not given any such permission in this regard. The allegations are incorrect," he told PTI, adding he had banned the display and asked police to ensure its compliance.
Regarding reports that ADGP S Ananthakrishnan, heading the Crime Branch team probing the case, had issued summons to him, he said, "I have not received any such information so far."
"If ADGP asks me to appear, I will obey as I am a government official," he said.
The accident at the century-old Puttingal Devi Temple complex had occurred during competitive display of fireworks early Sunday morning after a spark from a firecracker fell on the storehouse containing crackers, triggering explosion. BJP state President Kummanam Rajasekharan demanded that a CBI probe be ordered into the mishap.
"We do not have faith in crime branch probe. CBI should probe the incident. How the banned substances were brought to the temple precincts needs to be examined," he said.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, there was a growing demand for a ban on the fireworks display in festivities.
The Kerala High Court yesterday banned the use of high-decibel crackers and fireworks display after sunset in places of worship across the state.
However, with the May 16 elections round the corner, government decided to tread cautiously on the call for banning fireworks display itself and has called for an all-party meeting tomorrow.
Chandy said the meeting will take a decision on formulating a policy for restricting fireworks display.
Kerala also made a strong demand for declaring the Kollam tragedy as a national calamity.
Over 300 persons are still undergoing treatment in various hospitals in the state and DNA testing procedures to identify bodies of 13 people charred beyond recognition have also begun at Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Bio Technology (RGCB) here.
Meanwhile, the temple premises is slowly limping back to normalcy with shops and business establishments opening after the Sunday's tragedy.