Police book BJP leaders for canopy collapse, 39 in hospital

Kolkata, July 17 : A day after a canopy collapsed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address at a rally in West Bengal’s Midnapore town, injuring 90 people, police on Tuesday booked the organisers, the state BJP, for attempted culpable homicide, a police officer said.

Thirty-eight people are still admitted in the Midnapore Medical College and Hospital where the accident victims were initially taken to. One person with head injury has been moved to Kolkata.

“A case has been filed against the organisers of the Prime Minister’s event under Section 308 of IPC for attempting to commit culpable homicide. They have also been booked for causing hurt by acts endangering life or personal safety of others,” an officer said.

Along with the state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the contractor and the decorator who built the canopy for Modi’s event have also been booked under the same sections.

A part of the makeshift canopy collapsed minutes after Modi started his address at the Midnapore College ground on Monday afternoon.

Modi stopped speaking for a few minutes when the structure collapsed to urge the audience to move to a safer area. He also instructed officials to make arrangements for the treatment of the injured.

After the rally, Modi visited the injured in the hospital.

“A total 90 people were admitted to our hospital. Fourteen were released after primary treatment. Today we discharged another 37,” Panchanan Kundu, Principal of Midnapore Medical College and Hospital, told IANS.

“Thirty-eight people are still admitted here. However, none is critical. One person with head injury has been shifted to a Kolkata hospital,” he added.

Meanwhile, the central government despatched a Special Protection Group (SPG) team, headed by a Secretary, to make an on-the-spot assessment of the mishap.

The team would inquire about lapses, if any, under the provisions of the SPG Act and also find out whether the advance security liaison was followed during the Prime Minister’s address to the rally.

Meanwhile, the state forensic team visited the rally ground on Tuesday and pointed out many reasons that might have caused the structure to cave in.

“First, the soft condition of the ground due to rains, the second shallow digging of the iron poles (3-4 inches), the fixing plate had four joints out of which only one was fastened with a nut bolt,” said Chitrakhsya Sarkar of state Forensic Science Laboratory.

Decorators said that incessant rain for the last three days made the pandal vulnerable and accused the security personnel and volunteers of not taking action in spite of several complaints regarding people climbing up the canopy structure.

“On Monday morning we saw some people climbing up the iron structure of the canopy and waving party flags,” Rajiv Sinha, the decorator, alleged.

“I repeatedly asked the security and local volunteers to remove those men… I do not know what the security guards did. Nobody was listening to them. We were asked to leave the compound at 10 a.m. by the SPG,” he added.

The state BJP leadership cited rains and overcrowding for the mishap but blamed the police for not taking necessary security measures or controlling the crowd.

State BJP general secretary Sayantan Basu alleged that the police resorted to baton charge on BJP activists at the venue to control them and it led to the accident.

He said the state BJP will lodge a complaint to the PMO regarding the role of police at the venue and would also file a case against them.

“Police did not hold a single meeting with the organisers. The local administration simply overlooked the security aspect of the Prime Minister’s meeting. Now they cannot shrug off their responsibility,” Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said.

“It might be due to rains or the pressure of crowd. But the police should have checked the security aspects more diligently,” he added.

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