Sabarimala (Kerala): Thirty-one persons were injured in the stampede at the Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala, Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said on Monday and maintained that there was no lapse on the part of police.
"Thirty-one persons were injured, two of them seriously. Eight of the injured have been admitted to Kottayam medical college hospital, three in Pathanamthitta Government hospital, two in Pamba and 18 at Sannidhanam hospital," he told reporters.
An action plan would also be formulated to ensure that such incidents do not recur, he said, adding there was no lapse on the part of police.
"There was sufficient police at Sannidhanam. There were about 700 policemen on duty," he said.
The minister said that barricades would be strengthened in the coming three days when the shrine will remain closed.
A joint inspection with police, Devaswom officials and the minister was held at the mishap site this morning.
The temple had witnessed heavy rush on Sunday, the penultimate day of the 41-day pilgrimage season, which concludes today with 'Mandala Pooja'.
A rope barricade gave way at Malaikappuram following which some of them fell down causing injuries to the pilgrims, who were mostly from Andhra Pradesh, TN and Telangana. One of the injured is from Kerala.
Meanwhile, DGP Loknath Behara said a huge tragedy was averted at Sabarimala due to police intervention and denied reports that the stampede was due to ineffective police presence on Sunday, despite a heavy rush of pilgrims.
"Stampede was not due to the lapse of police," he said. Behara said that IG D Sreejit, in charge of Sabarimala security, has been asked to file a report on the stampede on Monday itself.
"I have asked Sreejit to immediately enquire and download the CCTV visuals and file a report today itself," Behara said.
Sreejit said there were nine policemen at the spot and it was due to their presence that a calamity was averted.
"It was due to their intervention that a big mishap was averted," Sreejit told PTI.
He said within 100 metres, there were 70 policemen, including NDRF.
Following the incident, security has been strengthened and entry of pilgrims is being restricted.
Meanwhile Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said the government should take steps to ensure that adequate police personnel are posted at Sabarimala during 'Makaravilakku' on January 14 and pilgrims are able to offer worship without any difficulty.
Incidents like Sunday's stampede, in which 31 persons were injured, should be avoided and all efforts should be made to ensure that pilgrims are able to offer worship without any hassle, he said in a letter to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
The incident should be viewed seriously as the rush of pilgrims is increasing every year. There are reports that enough police personnel had not been deployed at the mishap site and the Sannidhanam hospital was not well equipped, he said....