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‘Mahabharat’ over 12 Deaths at ‘Maha-Bhushan’ Event, Irate Oppn Wants CM’s Scalp

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It may be recalled that Amit Shah had lauded the people for sitting patiently in the 42 degrees C temperatures as an example of their devotion to Appasaheb Dharmadhika

NAVI MUMBAI – Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis’s nine-month-old government suffered its biggest PR debacle when at least 12 followers of the revered Appasaeb Dharmadhikari died of sunstroke after he was conferred the ‘Maharashtra Bhushan Award’ 2022 by Home Minister Amit Shah, on Sunday.

Top Opposition leaders of Congress, Shiv Sena (UBT), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) pounced on the government on Monday with demands for the CM’s resignation, apology enhanced compensation, offences against them for “culpable homicide”, a judicial probe to pinpoint the exact lapses in the heavily publicised jamboree.

The organisers claimed that the event attracted nearly two million followers from across the state, trooping in buses, trucks and even in boats in an exemplary orderly manner, with folded hands.

The three-hour event was held in the scorching Sun without marquees, tents, floor coverings, trees or any other protection. The crowds sat with amazing discipline, shielding themselves with kerchiefs, scarves, headgears, caps, umbrella-hats or even newspapers, without a murmur even through Appasaheb Dharmadhikari’s long speech.

After the VVIPs departed, the restless crowds attempted to quit the venue quickly back to their distant homes when many fell ill.

Though the exact figures have not been revealed, around 50 plus suffered from severe headaches, giddiness, dehydration and other symptoms, were rushed to nearby hospitals where till midnight (Sunday-Monday), 12 ‘Shrisadasyas’ (as they are known) had succumbed.

Shinde, Fadnavis and others rushed to the MGM Hospital late last night, soon followed by NCP’s Leader of Opposition Ajit Pawar, Sena (UBT) President & ex-CM Uddhav Thackeray, Aditya Thackeray, Arvind Samant, district Congress leaders, and this morning Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray visited the victims.

“After discussing with the ‘Shrisadasyas’, it appears that there was a minor stampede as people wanted to rush out after the event,” Pawar said.

Thackeray said that the function, originally scheduled for late evening, was advanced to 10.30 am as Shah “had no time” and led to the loss of innocent lives.

State Congress President Nana Patole said this is the ‘most insensitive government’ and demanded the resignation of the CM for the lapses leading to the tragedy.

AAP Mumbai President Preeti Sharma-Menon attacked Shinde alleging they “took Rs 50 crore” to come to power but have doled out just Rs 5,00,000 to the victims and demanded action against those responsible for the deaths.

Top Spokespersons of different parties like Congress’ Atul Londhe, Sena (UBT)’ Sanjay Raut, Kishore Tiwari and Dr Raghunath Kuchik, NCP’s Clyde Crasto also tore into the government function for mishandling of the mega-event.

“The government failed its duty to ensure safety of the participants and should be booked for culpable homicide for its sheer carelessness,” demanded Londhe.

“Why was the summer heat factor not considered before organising a Rs 13-crore mega-event with so many speakers rambling when the people were visibly tortured in the raging sun, with no drinking water also available,” fumed Tiwari.

Dr Kuchik questioned the wisdom of blowing up scarce state resources and questioned why the government couldn’t combine it with the ‘Maharashtra Bhushan-2021’ conferred on singer Asha Bhosale at a glittering function on March 24.

“It was just a show of strength by the CM and DyCM, a pre-election campaign in an open place instead of a closed venue like Raj Bhavan or some auditorium. They projected themselves as saviours of Hinduism, misusing power to promote their personal agenda,” said Dr Kuchik sharply.

Demanding a time-bound judicial probe into the disaster, Tiwari said that considering such frequent tragedies, the Centre and State must come out with a SOPs for all such mega-events to avoid any similar calamities and loss of precious human lives.

Crasto said Shinde and guardian Minister Uday Samant should apologise to the people of the state and order a probe into the incident.

It may be recalled that Amit Shah had lauded the people for sitting patiently in the 42 degrees C temperatures as an example of their devotion to Appasaheb Dharmadhikari.

On Shinde’s repeated assertions of being a proud ‘Shrisadasya,’ Tiwari questioned “whose brainchild it was to collect so many people”, and demanded culpable homicide charges against all the organisers, including the Collector.

As the tragedy snowballed into a huge political embarrassment, a grim Shinde appealed to political leaders “not to politicise” the disaster.

Soon after he was conferred the ‘Maharashtra Bhushan Award’, Appasaheb Dharmadhikari donated the prize money of Rs 25-Lakh to the CM’s Relief Fund. -IANS

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