Blame game begins over Kerala temple inferno

Kollam (Kerala): A day after the fireworks tragedy at the Puttingal Devi temple in Paravur in Kollam that left 109 people dead and more than 350 injured, a blame game has begun. The first round has begun with the district collector and the district police chief. Some unidentified people have stuck up posters about the religion of the district collector, A. Shainamol and additional district magistrate A. Shanavas. Shainamol has come down strongly on the district police officials who told the media that the district police had initially submitted a report saying permission cannot be given for the fireworks show. "But on April 9, police changed their position. An explanation will be asked on this change of stand," she told reporters at Kollam. Shainamol denied there was political pressure, after media reports surfaced that Peethamabara Kurup, a former Kollam Lok Sabha member and Congress leader, asked her to give sanction for the fireworks display. Kurup told IANS that he had never called her. "Some vested interests are after me for a while now, and that's how my name surfaced. I am now the president of the Guruvayoor Sree Krishna Temple, and an elephant under our administration was given to the Puttingal Devi temple for a function on April 8 night (Friday) and I went there and lit a lamp and left the temple in five minutes," he claimed. Shanavas, who was part of the collector's team, was not reachable for his version. Kollam Police Commissioner P. Prakash said he would comment on the issue only to the probe team. Hindu Aikyavedi leader J. Haridas said there was laxity on the part of the district administration as they did not do a proper job of finding out about the actual quantity of fireworks used for the display at the temple. Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader J.R. Padmakumar also accused the district administration of not doing its job, and asked the media not to divert the issue by taking on the religion of officials. "This is not the right moment to discuss communal issues as numerous people are grieving," said Padmakumar in a TV channel discussion Monday night. Soornad Rajasekheran, Congress candidate for the Chathannor assembly constituency, under which the temple falls, blamed the collector for appearing on TV channels Monday. "She should have been doing her job of coordinating the district administration. I went to quite a few houses of the deceased where they had no money for the funeral. The state government has already released the money, but the district administration took a lot of time to disburse it," alleged Rajasekheran. The state government has already announced a judicial probe and a probe by the Kerala Police crime branch probe.