Thirty three people, most of them in their 20s, drowned during the immersion of Ganesh idols in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi, officials said on Friday. Some of the dead were minors, they said.
In Madhya Pradesh’s capital Bhopal, 11 people died when two overcrowded country boats carrying a 20-ft. tall idol for immersion in Lower Lake in Khatlapura capsized. Eight were rescued. Seventeen people were on the boats when the incident took place around 4.30 a.m., Bhopal district collector Tharun Kumar Pithode said.
Six of the dead in Madhya Pradesh were in their 20s, while two were minor. One of those rescued said that safety equipment was not provided to the devotees venturing into the lake to immerse idols.
“First, one of the boats capsized near the Khatlapura Ghat, then the other one did as persons in it tried to rescue those in water,” District Collector Tharun Kumar Pithode said, adding that the rescued included two boatsmen.
The victims, residents of the 100-Quarters slum in Piplani, 10 km away, had pushed off in the lake from behind the State Police Headquarters to immerse the idol at 4.45 a.m. when the incident took place, according to officials of the National Disaster Response Force. Later at 11.30 a.m., the two battered boats were pulled out using ropes and tied up to the lake’s edge by rescuers.
“They had joined the two boats to carry the idol,” said State Relief Commissioner Manish Rastogi. As for whether rescuers were on duty at the time of the incident, he said,“Immersions don’t require NDRF officials to be on stand-by. It’s an accident.”
Mr. Pithode said many were rescued by locals, who rowed smaller boats or swam across. The bodies of the deceased have been shifted to the Hamidia Hospital here for post mortem.
The Jahangirabad police, under whose limits the incident took place, registered an FIR against two boatsmen Akash Batham and Changu Batham under Section 304A [causing death by negligence] of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), while four other locals had been arrested.
Ordering a magisterial inquiry into the incident, Mr. Nath said, “Whoever is held negligent will not be spared. The government stands by the aggrieved families. We announce a compensation of ₹11 lakh for the families of each of the victims.” Meanwhile, the Municipal Corporation announced a separate relief of ₹50,000 for them.
Despite being stopped, said Mr. Pithode, the persons entered the ghat. “Security officials were asked to be present at the ghat during immersions.The inquiry will ascertain who all didn’t perform their duties or were absent,” he added.
Besides, said State Law Minister, it would be inquired as to how so many people were allowed to carry the idol in the boats.
Condoling the drownings, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “The capsizing of a boat at Khatlapura Ghat in Bhopal is saddening. In this hour of grief, our thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives.”
At least 18 drown in Maharashtra
In Maharashtra, at least 18 people drowned in separate incidents during the immersion of Ganesh idols.
Immersion of idols, which began on Anant Chaturdashi on September 12, continued till the next morning.
Drowning incidents were reported in 11 districts — Amravati, Nashik, Thane, Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri, Dhule, Bhandara, Nanded, Ahmednagar, Akola and Satara, an official said.
Four people drowned in Amravati, three in Ratnagiri, two each in Nashik, Sindhudurg and Satara, one each in Thane, Dhule, Buldhana, Akola and Bhandara. Majority of the deceased were young, they said. Two men and two women drowned in the Yamuna river in Delhi during Ganesh idol immersion, officials said.
In Navi Mumbai, seven people sustained injuries due to a short-circuit when wooden top of a Ganesh idol’s seat touched electric wires under a bridge.
7 suffer electric shock
Meanwhile seven people, who were carrying a tall Ganesh idol from Seawoods in Navi Mumbai, suffered injuries from electric shock at 12.25 a.m. on September 13, while exiting a flyover. The idol came into contact with an overhead high tension wire.
Two of the injured are in a critical condition.
“If the idol had been carried on a tempo, this would not have happened as there would have been a break in the electricity circuit. It was raining and the chair of the Ganapati too had metal. When it touched the high tension wire, the feeder tripped immediately but some electricity that got leaked passed through the people who were in contact with the handcart, which too was metallic,” an official from the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL) said.
After an inspection by the electrical officer, the feeder was switched on again. A sewage treatment plant of Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation at Seawoods was the only consumer of the high tension supply. Hence no residential area was affected by the incident.
With the help of MSEDC officials, the police and the Mandal workers, the idol was later immersed in a pond. “We are conducting enquiries and no case has been registered yet,” inspector Sunil Gavali from Nerul police station said.
The four who drowned in Delhi, in their 20s, were residents of Nihal Vihar, Nangloi, officials said. The Delhi Fire Department received information of the drowning around 9 pm on Thursday, they said.
A fire tender was rushed to the spot and a rescue operation initiated. The bodies were subsequently recovered, they said.
(With PTI inputs)