Rajahmundry (AP): Two days after the deadly stampede in which 27 pilgrims were killed, the Godavari ‘Pushkaram’ witnessed huge rush of devotees today on the occasion of ‘Amavasya’ even as officials said the 12-day religious event was going on without any hitch.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu also said the government will ensure that such tragedies do not recur and that pilgrims don’t face further trouble during the festival.
“Absolutely normal. Today it has exceeded the first day’s footfall. First day, we had around 6.4 lakh (pilgrims) by noon (in six bathing ghats here). Today, we had seven lakh odd. We are expecting it will cross 10 lakh,” East Godavari district Collector H Arun Kumar told PTI.
‘Amavasya’ is considered auspicious for performing rituals for departed elders as lakhs of people today took holy dip and performed puja. The number of pilgrims is expected to further rise over the weekend and also towards end of the event on July 25. Earlier, addressing a gathering after distributing ex-gratia cheques to stampede victims at Anam Kalkendram here last night, Naidu said, “Our government commenced the work (on arrangements for the holy dip) four months ahead with an aim to provide all facilities to pilgrims but unfortunately many of them swarmed to one bathing ghat and this happened.”
“Now, queue management has been introduced for smooth movement of pilgrims to various ghats while they proceed to take a dip and vice-versa on their return. Elaborate arrangements have been made for accommodation, drinking water, food packets and sanitation too,” he said.
“In view of the incident, we are monitoring the situation at various ghats including pilgrim rush, bathing and other facilities through CCTVs, which are kept at ghats and linked with the Control Room,” Naidu added.
The ‘Pushkaram‘ (the ritual of taking holy dip in rivers which is celebrated once in 12 years) began in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana on July 14. This year’s event “Maha Pushkaram” is even more special for its astronomical significance as it comes once in 144 years.
The event had a tragic start with 27 people losing their lives in a stampede at a Pushkar bathing ghat in Rajahmundry, the main venue of the event in AP, when waiting pilgrims were suddenly let out into the banks of the river.
The East Godavari district administration has sent a preliminary report on the stampede to the government, and also the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) as per procedures. “We have written how the situation developed. People from all over the districts and neighbouring states turned up for the event. Suddenly, there was a surge of the crowd and everybody started breaching the barricade and the police could not control this surging crowd. In the melee, the stampede had taken place,” the District Collector said.