Rajahmundry (Andhra Pradesh), July 15 (IANS) Thousands of pilgrims took holy dip in Godavari river here on Wednesday as authorities took steps to improve crowd management, a day after 27 people died in a stampede.
Shaken by the tragedy on the first day of Godavari ‘maha pushkaralu’, the administration overhauled the arrangements, roping in additional police forces to control the crowds.
Staying back in the town, Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu personally monitored the proceedings at six bathing ghats with top officials to avoid overcrowding at one place.
Naidu was monitoring the situation from police control room and giving instructions to officials.
Pilgrims were thronging Kotalingala Ghat since 2 a.m. The police were sending pilgrims in batches to prevent stampede. Director General of Police J.V. Ramudu was supervising the arrangements at the ghat.
The administration in Rajahmundry was able to regulate the crowds by ensuring that the pilgrims maintain queues. Officials said four lakh people took the holy dip till Wednesday noon at various ghats in this town in East Godavari district.
Naidu visited various ghats after midnight to review the arrangements. He asked officials to clear the misconception among people that the holy dip should be taken only at Pushkar Ghat.
It was at this ghat that a stampede broke out on Tuesday, minutes after Naidu along with his family members, his cabinet colleagues and VIPs took a holy dip to formally launch ‘maha pushkaralu’ – defacto kumbh mela.
The tragedy, which killed 27 pilgrims and injured 60 others, stirred Naidu, who decided to stay in the town till completion of the 12-day mega event.
The chief minister came under fire from the opposition parties, who blamed him for the tragedy and sought his resignation. The main opposition YSR Congress alleged that the entire administration was busy attending to Naidu and other VIPs while common people were made to wait for hours, leading to a stampede.
Naidu announced an ex-gratia of Rs.10 lakh each to the families of the dead. He also ordered judicial probe into the incident.
The authorities have identified 151 ghats for the holy dip in East Godavari district. This includes six ghats in Rajahmundry town.
There are also 129 ghats in West Godavari district. A festive atmosphere prevailed at the ghats in both the districts.