KOLKATA: At least six pilgrims died while returning from the Ganga Sagar fair in Kachuberia district of West Bengal on Sunday. While the officials initially said it was a stampede, the State government later claimed it was not. District officials initially said two pilgrims died on the spot and three, including a woman at the hospital. The incident occurred on Sunday evening when there was a huge rush of pilgrims to board vessels to reach Kolkata, the officials said, adding all of them were middle aged and are yet to be identified.
Later however, Sundarbans Development Minister Manturam Pakhira claimed that six elderly women died after falling ill during the rush to board a vessel at a jetty in South 24 Parganas district while returning from the fair. The incident occurred when there was a mad rush of pilgrims to board vessels at jetty number 5 to reach Kolkata, he said.
A few people fell unconscious while several took ill during the incident, he said, adding they were taken to a nearby temporary healthcare centre where six people, all elderly women, died.
“These women were very old. Most of them were above 75 years of age and were very weak. They died natural death. Doctors said that they died of heart attack,” Pakhira said.
“The rush was because there would be no vessel for about eight hours due to low tide,” he said. State ministers Subrata Mukherjee and Arup Biswas also denied that it was a stampede. After the initial reports, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had even tweeted: “Saddened by the loss of lives caused by a stampede in West Bengal. My thoughts are with the families of the deceased.” The PMO also tweeted: “PM approved ex-gratia from PMNRF, of Rs 2 lakh for next of kin of those deceased & Rs 50,000 for those injured in the stampede.”