Maharashtra: Death toll in BJP Navi Mumbai event rises to 11, Opposition hits out at govt

The ‘Maharashtra Bhushan’ award conferred to spiritual leader Appasaheb Dharmadhikari was attended by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, and others in Kharghar area of Raigad district.

Navi Mumbai, Maha Bhushan
The gathering at the Maharashtra Bhushan Award function in Navi Mumbai on Sunday. (Express photo by Narendra Vaskar)

Navi Mumbai ‘Maharashtra Bhushan’ award: At least 11 people died and 20 others were hospitalised after suffering from dehydration and heatstroke while attending a Maharashtra government event to confer an award to social worker Dattatreya Narayan Dharmadhikari held in an open ground at Kharghar in Navi Mumbai on Sunday, reported The Indian Express.

The ‘Maharashtra Bhushan’ award which began at 11 AM and lasted for three hours was attended by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Union minister Kapil Patil and state Cabinet ministers among others.

BJP office-bearers claimed that more than 10 lakh people had attended the event held in the open 306-acre ground in Kharghar area of Raigad district neighbouring Mumbai.

Appasaheb Dharmadhikari conferred award

The union home minister conferred the prestigious award to spiritual leader and social reformer Dharmadhikari, popularly known as Appasaheb Dharmadhikari.

At least 300 people had complained of dehydration, high blood pressure and exhaustion and medical help was provided to them, BJP workers said.

According to the Indian Meteorological Department’s (IMD) Santacruze observatory, the maximum temperature recorded in Mumbai was 34.1 degrees on Sunday, which was one degree above normal, while the coastal observatory at Colaba recorded 32.4 degrees.

Following the incident, Maharashtra CM Shinde had visited the MGM hospital in Kharghar, and announced compensation of Rs five lakh to the next of kin of the deceased. Calling it an “unfortunate and painful incident”, he added that those who fell ill at the event will be treated for free at government hospitals.

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis also condoled the deaths.

Meanwhile, the Opposition party Congress hit out at the ruling BJP, charging it with committing “culpable homicide not amounting to murder”.

Former Maharashtra CM and Shiv Sena (UBT) faction leader Uddhav Thackeray said that event was “not properly planned”, and asked who will investigate the incident, reported PTI.

Thackeray, his son Aaditya Thackeray and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar visited the patients at the MGM Kamothe Hospital late Sunday night.

The NCP leader said, “It is a well-known fact that during April-May, the temperature is very high. During these days, the temperature is around 40 degrees Celsius,” he said.

“Hence, it needs to be probed as to who had fixed the noon timing for the award function,” Pawar said, adding that the function could have been held in the evening and the Union Home Minister could have taken a chopper to reach the venue.

Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut also said that the event could be held in the evening. “Politics behind the award prevailed over people’s convenience,” he said.

Should have learnt from past incidents: Sanjay Raut

The Rajya Sabha member further said there have been similar incidents in the past and the state should have learnt some lessons from them before organising such events.

Congress general secretary and Maharashtra Congress chief spokesperson Atul Londhe Patil accused the state government of negligence. “During the government’s Maharashtra Bhushan Award programme, ten innocent people died due to the negligence of this government because the event was organised under the sun and in the month of April. For this, the government should be charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder,” he tweeted.

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First published on: 17-04-2023 at 12:03 IST