Pradeep Pattanayak

One person died and as many as 20 suffered critical injuries in a stampede on the Gopinathpur-Badamba T Bridge in Athagarh, Cuttack on Saturday. Badamba MLA Debi Prasad Mishra confirmed that a woman died in the stampede, while 20 others were injured. 

The deceased woman has been identified as a resident of Pathuripada village in Banki. 

Today on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, there was a huge rush on the bridge which connects Singhanath shrine located in the middle of the Mahanadi River. It was when the devotees were negotiating along the bridge that suddenly a stampede took place. 

As ambulances couldn’t reach the spot because of the rush on the bridge, the injured persons were seen being shifted to Badamba hospital on motorcycles.  

As per reports coming in from Badamba hospital, some people are still lying on hospital beds unconscious and some others have been kept on ventilator support. Meanwhile, at least 3 patients have been shifted to SCB Medical College and Hospital in Cuttack. 

The 3.4 km-long-bridge was inaugurated by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on December 20, 2021. To reach the shrine, there is a fair-weather road as well. Today it is said that all the devotees took the bridge to reach the shrine as it being the shortest route. 

Though it was expected that a huge number of devotees would turn up for the shrine, the local administration totally failed in figuring out the danger lurking on the bridge due to the heavy rush. It is said that they had not expected such a huge rush of devotees at the shrine for which they treated it as a common fair. Had the administration taken steps to limit the crowd on the bridge and asked some, particularly young men and women to use the beaten path, the mishap could have been avoided. 

Regarding crowd control, Cuttack Rural Additional SP Ranjit Prusty said, “The number of devotees turned up at the shrine was beyond all expectations. However, to control the crowd on the bridge, we have deployed three platoons of police force. The Sub Divisional Police Officer (SDPO), Athagarh along with his officials is presently controlling the crowd.”

“Now we have stopped people from entering the bridge to facilitate the evacuation process. Then the people stuck on the shrine will be allowed to move,” Prusty said. 

Yet, the relatives of the patients undergoing treatment at the Badamba Hospital and Cuttack medical hold the police administration entirely responsible for the stampede. 

When asked, Athagarh Sub Collector Hemanta Kumar Swain said, “The crowd was three to four times more than the estimation. Around 1.2 to 2 lakh people congregated. Our main focus is to evacuate the people stuck on the bridge and at the shrine.”

Badamba MLA Debi Prasad Mishra said, “In the stampede, one person died at the hospital. Eight seriously injured are undergoing treatment.” Regarding police deployment, Mishra admitted that more police force should have been deployed to control the crowd.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced Rs 5 lakh ex-gratia for the kin of the deceased and free treatment for the injured ones. 

BJP National Vice President, Baijayant Panda expressed grief over the 'Makar Mela stampede' on T Bridge in Badamba, Cuttack and extended his condolences to the family of the deceased and wishes speedy recovery of the injured.  

(Reported by Nilakantha Dora, Sarbeswara Swain, Sanjip Nayak, Prabhat Bisoi and Kapilendra Pradhan, OTV)