Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday said he “had no proper knowledge” of the kite festival organised at Sabbalpur diara, where a boat tragedy claimed 24 lives, though his photographs appeared on advertisements put up by the Tourism Department. He, however, said, action would be taken against those responsible for organising the event irrespective of their affiliations and positions.
“I had no proper knowledge of the event. Inquiry on how my photograph was put on the advertisement without approval of CM secretariat is part of probe,” he said.
Visibly upset over BJP and a section of media alleging that he didn’t take interest in the kite festival like he did in the Prakash Parva and ‘Kalchakra Puja’ because the Makar Sankranti event wouldn’t bring him national accolade, Kumar said, he handled arrangement for ‘Prakash Parva’ and the ‘Puja’ because they were “bigger events”.
“Since Prakash Parva and Kalachakra were bigger events, where lakhs of people came from across the world, and were organised by the state government, everything concerning them were taken care of at my level. But this (kite festival) was held by one department (tourism) and not by the government,” he said
He said there had been “severe violations” of standard operating procedure (SOP) on safeguards for conducting events like the kite festival. “Had it (that such event is being organised) been in my knowledge, I would have certainly asked questions to the organisers about arrangements made and whether SOPs were adhered to or not,” he said.
It has been decided that no such event of any department would be allowed in future without clearance from the Chief Secretary, he said. He said a high-level inquiry into the tragedy has begun by Principal Secretary, Disaster Management, Pratyay Amrit and DIG Patna, Shalin.
Based on their report, action would be taken against those responsible for organising the kite festival on sand bars at the riverine area on the other side of the Ganga at the earliest “without consideration of face or position”.
Describing the January 14 boat tragedy as a “personal loss”, Kumar said he had started monitoring the situation as soon as he received the news about it around 7 PM.
He said the entire operation– from sending officials to the spot to making arrangements at Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) for the victims– were supervised by him.
He, however, lamented that “even at the time of such a colossal human tragedy, some people instead of showing sentiments, indulge in venting out ‘bharash’ (frustration) at the government.”