Patna: Bihar Principal Secretary Amir Subhani, amidst much confusion, began a public hearing at the Patna Collectorate on the Chhath tragedy at Adalatganj in Patna last Monday during which at least 17 people perished in a stampede cause of which remains under investigation.
Subhani met with a number of eyewitnesses, including the family members of the victims, Ghat volunteers, and government officials, to get their accounts of the tragic event.
Sources said various versions of the story were presented during the hearing, including the spreading of a rumor of live electricity passing through the makeshift bamboo bridge as thousands gathered at the Adalatganj Ghat to offer evening Arghya to the Sun God.
One eyewitness, while recanting the incident, said that rumors were heard that live electricity was passing through the bamboo bridge that was decorated with colorful light. To avoid the electrical danger, many people opted to take the narrow path leading to the ghat. However, due to the slippery ground, some children fell causing a panic among others leading to a stampede.
The junior engineer who was on duty at the Sri Krishna Memorial Hall Power Sub-station, in her testimony, said that she did receive a phone call about a live power line falling on the bamboo bridge.
"To be on the safe side, we switched off the feeder at 6:27 pm. However, our linemen at Adalatganj Ghat informed us that it was just a rumor and everything was fine. So at 6:35 pm, we turned back the power on in the region," Ruby Kumar, the junior engineer, said.
Sunita Devi, another person who lost one of her relatives in the stampede, said that she and other family members were going to the ghat when people started to run helter-skelter saying electrical current was flowing on the bridge. In the melee, her sister-in-law, Sheila Devi, fell down on the ground and was trampled by the crowd.
"When we rushed her to the Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH), there were no doctors on the duty. Shortly my sister-in-law died," she said.
Others also told Subhani of lack of adequate help at the PMCH where victims were being brought in every minute.
Meanwhile, amidst city-wide protest and candle-light vigil for the victims of the tragedy, two separate cases of gross negligence were filed in separate courts against Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, and five others.
Chief Judicial Magistrate Ramakant Yadav has set the date of hearing for November 26.