India

Indian media: Anger over temple stampede

Officials say a rumour that the bridge was about to collapse may have triggered the stampede
Image caption Officials say a rumour that the bridge was about to collapse may have triggered the stampede

Media in India feel better crowd management could have prevented the stampede at a Hindu festival in the central state of Madhya Pradesh which killed at least 115 people.

Newspapers are full of praise for disaster management authorities' work in limiting the damage caused by Cyclone Phailin, but feel officials need to be better prepared to manage large gatherings at religious and other places.

"No congregation in India is ever easy to manage. An intentional or unintentional push or a rumour can result in hundreds of deaths in a short span of time. Despite such dangers, crowd management is seen as a last-minute job which often falls on over-worked and under-prepared policemen," says the Hindustan Times.

"Unsurprisingly, they usually fail to read the first signs of trouble and then react in a ham-handed manner, which is usually lathi-charging (baton charge) the already panic-stricken crowd," the paper adds.

The Hindu says "the law and order machinery is yet to learn lessons from the past in ensuring crowd management where it is needed most".

"Adding to the sense of irony is the fact that 56 pilgrims had been washed away at the same site in 2006 and it was after that tragedy that the bridge was built. Clearly, when it comes to proactively preventing man-made disasters, India has a long, long way to go," the paper adds.

The Times of India too says the loss could have been prevented if the authorities were more sensitive and prepared to manage the huge gathering.

"What Phailin's raging winds over Orissa could not achieve despite doomsday predictions, rumours and police ineptitude brought about on the bridge over Sindh river - the needless death of 115 devotees," says the paper.

Moving on to some financial news, newspapers feel the rising inflation will severely affect families ahead of the upcoming Diwali holidays in November.

The inflation rose to 6.46% in September - its fastest spike since February - amid fears of a further rise in prices of vegetables and other essential commodities.

"Rising cost of living, flat income growth and shrinking job opportunities were making getting by harder for millions in a festive month," says the Hindustan Times.

'Alarming' hunger

Meanwhile, according to the latest figures, India has "alarming" levels of hunger with more than 40% children under five suffering from malnutrition, reports The Economic Times.

Though the number of hungry people has reduced from last year, the country is still behind China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in the Global Hunger Index, it adds.

The index reviews hunger levels across 120 developing countries and rates them based on the number of malnourished people, number of underweight children under five and the mortality rate of children under five, the paper says.

Describing the statistics as "shameful" and "worrisome", Hindi newspaper Dainik Jagran urges the government to take "firm steps" for food security and ensure proper distribution of foodgrains.

Meanwhile, Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt's parole has been extended for another 14 days, reports the NDTV website.

Dutt, who was released from Pune's Yerwada jail on 1 October on medical grounds, was allowed further leave, and is now required to surrender on 30 October.

The actor has been sentenced for five years for firearms offences linked to the 1993 Mumbai blasts which killed 257 people.

And finally, a treasure hunt has begun near the palace of a 19th Century king in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh after a seer dreamt that 1,000 tonnes of gold was buried in the area, reports the Mail Today.

A team of archaeologists who visited the palace in Daundia Khera village in Unnao district said "something" was buried 20 metres under the soil.

However, the officials say a confirmation about the treasure will come only after digging deep into the earth, the paper adds.

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