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Overloaded Boat, Lax Authorities: Eyewitnesses Rue Loss of Lives in Bhopal Ganesh Immersion Accident

An eyewitness, whose brother died in the mishap, claimed policemen near the river were only regulating traffic and not overseeing immersion activities in the lake.

Vivek Trivedi | News18.com

Updated:September 13, 2019, 11:42 PM IST
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Overloaded Boat, Lax Authorities: Eyewitnesses Rue Loss of Lives in Bhopal Ganesh Immersion Accident
Rescue personnel pull out the boat that capsized in the Lower Lake in Bhopal on Friday. (PTI)
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Bhopal: As Bhopal finds it hard to come to terms with the tragedy in which 11 people died after a boat capsized during an immersion of a Ganesh idol on Thursday night, one of the eyewitnesses said there was no one from the administration to oversee the safety of the immersion process.

Kamal Rana, a native of a slum in Piplani, was part of a group of 17 who had gone to Khatlapura ghat on Thursday night to immerse the idol.

“There were a few policemen but they were only regulating traffic and were not bothered with who is going inside the lake for immersion,” said Rana, a man in his early 20s. His brother, Hari, was among the 11 who died in the mishap.

“We struck a deal for Rs 600 with a boatman,” added Rana, claiming the boatman had joined two boats with a wooden plank to ensure the big idol could be carried on the structure.

Rana claimed that the boat started tilting to one side on account of the heavy idol; the boatman then asked the boys to bring in more people to balance the vessel by sitting at the other end.

More boys from the group jumped into the boat and once the vessel reached the middle of the lower lake, the group attempted to push the statue inside the water. One of the boats immediately tilted and plunged into water.

“The boatman asked us to come to the other side and we did, but the boats eventually capsized,” said Rana, adding there were no divers or boats to deal with the eventualities. “No one was there to give us life jackets either.”

“A few boatmen from nearby boats jumped into the water and started the rescue effort,” Rana said, claiming the State Disaster Relief Force (SDRF) reached the site after 30 minutes. The headquarters of the SDRF and Home Guards is situated opposite the lake.

“We did not know what to do and started gasping for breath. Suddenly, a nearby boat approached and we clung on to it and saved ourselves,” recalled Rana.

His father, Ragho Rana, demanded action against those responsible for the deaths. Those who died were identified as Parvez, Karan, Arjun Sharma, Rahul Mishra, Harsh, Sanny Thackeray, Vishal, Karan, Vicky, Rahul Verma, and Rohit Maurya.

The family of Parvez, one of the youngest victims, was inconsolable. “He told us he was going nearby and would come back soon,” said a relative.

Ironically, the tableau erected by the deceased youths had won an award at the local market on Thursday night before they proceeded for the fateful immersion.

Reports claim there were 19 people, including the boatmen Akash Batham and Changu Batham, on board. The two were later arrested and booked under Section 304(A) (relating to culpable homicide) of the Indian Penal Code.

As a precautionary measure, the administrations in Indore and Khargone has banned immersion of big statutes in the Narmada as the river is overflowing.

Besides ordering a magisterial probe, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath announced Rs 11 lakh each to the kin of those killed in the mishap. An Assistant Sub-Inspector of Police (ASI), a Revenue Inspector, and two other civic officials have been suspended so far for dereliction of duty.

The administration concluded the rescue operation with the help of divers late on Friday afternoon, announcing that operations would resume if information of missing persons was provided. The policemen have been directed to visit the areas from where the deceased hailed and inquire about anyone else missing from there.

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| Edited by: Karan Anand
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