Midnapore/Kolkata: A high-level Central team is in Midnapore to assess the circumstances that led to the collapse of a makeshift marquee during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s public rally on Monday, which left 90 people injured, official sources said.
The Central team comprising joint secretary to home department, Anita Bhatnagar and two senior Special Protection Group officers S.K. Singh and M Siddhi arrived in the afternoon, they said.
The team will examine whether there was any lapse in the security measures, lack of coordination among different agencies and other shortcomings in organising the rally, a senior Union home ministry official said.
The sources said the Central team met West Midnapore district magistrate, superintendent of police, health officials of the district as well as the superintendent of Midnapore Medical College and Hospital, where the injured were admitted. The team held a marathon meeting and questioned the various district departmental chiefs individually, they said.
The Centre had on Tuesday sought a report from the West Bengal government on the incident.
District police sources said a high-level team led by ADG (IB) Siddhinath Gupta and West Midnapore police superintendent Alok Rajoria visited the venue during the day and spoke to several people involved in erecting the marquee. The venue has been sealed, the sources said, adding the police are collecting the CCTV footage from there.
It was found that some of the CCTVs installed at the venue were not working properly, the sources added. A case was registered against the organiser and decorator who erected the tent for “extreme negligence of duty”, Rajoria told PTI.
Initial investigations have revealed that some of the iron frames used for setting up the makeshift tent were rusty, and most of the iron poles were not inserted in the ground properly, a senior police officer said.
“The iron rods should have been placed in the ground much deeper as the ground was wet due to rains,” he said. A senior state government official said in Kolkata that the state CID was assisting the probe into the incident by carrying out forensic tests at the rally site. He said the CID has found there were some last minute changes made at the venue where the tent was erected.
“Soil was not properly packed around the base of the iron poles on which the tent was erected. Due to showers, water had accumulated in small pockets that made the soil soft and compromised its ability to hold the poles firmly in place,” the official added. The decorator, however, asserted that he had done his job with “utmost sincerity” and was being made a “scapegoat” in the tussle between the BJP and the ruling Trinamul Congress.
Rajiv Kumar Singh of J.N. Decorators in Kolkata, who has been organising programs for the West Bengal unit of the BJP for the last one decade, said he had repeatedly asked the party leaders to ensure that no one got on top of the marquee.
“I was there at the venue yesterday... I had told the party leaders and local security personnel to ensure that no one gets on top of the marquee. But, no steps were taken which resulted in the collapse of the structure, as it could not withstand the weight of so many people,” Mr Singh said.
Meanwhile, the West Bengal BJP leadership blamed the “lacklustre attitude” of the state government and police administration as the reason behind the incident.
Both the police and the TMC leadership have termed the allegations as baseless.
State BJP general secretary Sayantan Basu alleged that the police had baton charged BJP activists at the venue to control them. It made many of them climb the makeshift structure, which could not withstand their weight and collapsed, he said.
He said PWD engineers were present when the tent was being erected and wondered what were they doing.