11 die of heat stroke after ‘Maharashtra Bhushan’ award ceremony

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Navi Mumbai– At least 11 persons succumbed to heat stroke and over four dozen hospitalised after a mammoth public event in which Union Home Minister Amit Shah conferred the ‘Maharashtra Bhushan-2022’ Award on social reformer Appasaheb Dharmadhikari.

Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and others rushed to the MGM Hospital in Navi Mumbai late Sunday evening to enquire after the wellbeing of the people admitted there.

Early on Monday, NCP’s Leader of Opposition Ajit Pawar, Shiv Sena (UBT) President and former Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Congress leaders visited the hospital and interacted with the patients.

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

Thackeray said that the function, originally scheduled for 5 p.m. on Sunday, was preponed to morning 10.30 a.m. 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 Chief Minister for the lapses leading to the tragedy.

Chief spokesperson Atul Londhe said that it was a government function and hence it was it’s duty to ensure the safety of all the participants.

“So many people have lost their lives. The government should be booked for culpable homicide and action should be taken against those responsible,” demanded Londhe.

Aam Aadmi Party state President Preeti Sharma-Menon expressed shock at the huge loss of lives.

Others have questioned why the heat factor was not taken into account before organising a Rs 13 crore mega-event with so many speakers, including Appasaaheb Dharmadhikari who delivered a lengthy speech while the people were visibly suffering in the raging sun.

Londhe termed as “carelessness” to organised such a massive event in the open ground without any marquee or shelter at the height of the summer season.

In fact, during his speech, Amit Shah had lauded the people for sitting patiently in the 42 degrees Celsius temperatures as an example of their devotion to Appasaheb Dharmadhikari.

The organisers had claimed that nearly 20 lakh people had attended the mega-event and Shinde — himself a disciple of the awardee — had proudly proclaimed how the gathering had shattered previous records.

The people had been trooping into Mumbai in buses, trucks or boats from the Konkan and other parts of the state since April 14 to witness the heavily publicised event.

Many could be seen wearing scarves, caps, umbrella-hats, or kerchiefs, dupattas and headgears to escape the blistering heat in the function which went on for nearly three hours yesterday afternoon.

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

He also announced a compensation of Rs 5,00,000 to the kin of the deceased and said the other patients are being cared for properly.

Soon after he was conferred the ‘Maharashtra Bhushan Award’, Appasaheb Dharmadhikari donated the prize money of Rs 25 lakh to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. (IANS)

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