Mumbai: A former judge of the Bombay High Court has made a shocking revelation over the decade-old horrific incident of the Mandher Devi temple stampede which claimed nearly 290 lives. The judge, who was appointed to probe the incident, claims that though he submitted his report as well as recommendations to the then Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and Home Minister R. R. Patil, the same were never placed before the State Assembly.
The judge – Justice (retd.) Rajan Kochar — was asked to conduct the probe by the then Congress-NCP government. He worked tirelessly for a few months and heard the depositions of several people – victims, officials, etc. — and then prepared a report. However, neither the then government, nor the present one, has taken any cognizance of the report and placed it before the State Assembly.
According to Justice Kochar, if his report is implemented, such incidents at various religious places can be avoided. While speaking exclusively with the Free Press Journal, Justice Kochar said, “I had submitted the report to the then chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and a separate copy to the then home minister RR Patil. I purposely prepared the report in Marathi, so that the government does not waste time in getting it translated.”
“I cannot disclose my findings or the recommendations I gave, since these are still confidential. But, yes, I can say that my report had certain recommendations which can prove to be helpful for avoiding stampede incidents at religious places. Unfortunately, this report was never placed before the Assembly and I have no idea as to why the government has not implemented or placed it before the house yet,” Justice Kochar added.
Justice Kochar had prepared this report after visiting almost all the religious places in Maharashtra, which see a huge crowd of devotees during festivals. According to sources, the report sheds light on the congestion in the vicinity of the shrine, especially illegal shops installed on both sides of the narrow roads which lead to the temple. The shops also resort to pilferage of power, which means a short circuit can create havoc. This, coupled with the slippery road due the sprinkling of coconut water and also prasad, led to the stampede incident which resulted in scores of lives being lost. Adding to this, was the altercation between drunk devotees and others that led to further commotion, the report states.