Police rescued a woman after a stampede took place outside the office of the Affordable Housing Department of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) on Wednesday afternoon, where a large crowd has been gathering since October 18 to collect application forms for the upcoming housing scheme projects for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS). Police also detained a youth, who was distributing tokens, which allegedly led to the stampede.
The VMC started distributing forms for 2,132 affordable housing units under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) in four locations — Subhanpura, Gotri, Kalali, and Harni. On Wednesday, the second day of the distribution of forms after Tuesday was a public holiday, a large number of people gathered outside the VMC office in Raopura.
According to the police personnel who were deployed in anticipation of the crowd, the panic began when news spread about a “man distributing tokens”. The stampede ensued as people rushed to grab tokens with many of them suffering minor injuries. A woman, who fell to the ground was rescued from the stampede that lasted a few minutes before police dispersed the crowd.
The detained man, who was allegedly distributing the tokens, claimed to the police that the VMC officer asked him to distribute the tokens. However, VMC Executive Engineer (Affordable Housing- PMAY, MGY, BSUP, RAY) Nilesh Parmar denied that any private person had been asked to give out tokens.
Parmar told The Indian Express, “We spotted the man trying to distribute tokens and told the police to check if he was a conman. The token system in the office is automated and we do not hire private persons to distribute tokens.”
Parmar said that as per procedure, 100 forms are distributed in a day after verifying the credentials of the applicants. Following Wednesday’s incident, the VMC is contemplating increasing the number of centres for form distribution and collection.
“We distributed 200 forms on Monday and Wednesday. We are discussing the need to increase the number of centres to manage the crowd. We might distribute and collect forms zone-wise or ward-wise, given the crowd that is gathering at the office without following Covid-19 guidelines,” said Parmar. Officials of the Raopura police station said that no FIR had been registered in the case yet but a probe was on.
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