A major portion of a Haridwar boundary wall built in the British era, separating the sanctum sanctorum Brahamkund at Har-Ki-Pauri with the remaining city, collapsed due to incessant rains accompanying lightning strikes in the wee hours of Tuesday.
Built in 1935, the boundary wall was allegedly struck by lightning around 3 am, believed to have triggered the collapse that led to a scattering of debris at the ghats and up to the Ganga Sabha office.
Local priests, police personnel, Ganga Sabha office bearers and residents arrived at the spot after hearing the explosive sound. Ganga Sabha president Pradeep Jha said no one was near the spot at the time of the incident.
Akhil Bharatiya Akhada Parishad and Ganga Sabha have demanded an inquiry into this incident at this ancient religious place in the context of the structural strength of the wall housing a pilgrimage thronged by millions every day.
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“Akhada Parishad demands an inquiry into this incident as Har-Ki-Pauri is a place where thousands of people arrive on a daily basis. Mahakumbh is just five months away so construction of a stronger outer wall and related infrastructure works should be carried out in such a manner that safety of pilgrims and Har-Ki-Pauri personnel is ensured, “said Mahant Narendra Giri, president of Akhil Bharatiya Akhada Parishad.
Har-Ki-Pauri police station in-charge Amarjeet Singh said that the police personnel have cordoned off the whole area as the remaining portion of the wall, too, seemed vulnerable.
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Former municipal chairperson Satpal Brahamchari alleged that the wall caved in due to pressure from rain water which had accumulated due to uncovered digging work currently being undertaken for the underground laying of power cables and piped natural gas lines. A section of local traders seemed to agree with Brahamchari.
Mayor Anita Sharma, too, weighed in and blamed the haphazard laying of underground power, piped natural gas lines and sewer lines for water logging and the subsequent caving in of the wall.
District authorities said an expert opinion was needed to confirm if the collapse was indeed a result of lightning strike. District disaster management officer Haridwar Meera Kainthura said the reason will be known after submission of a report by disaster management experts and geologists.
Local priests have interpreted the collapse as “a bad omen” and an expression of “wrath” by Ganga Maa, upset at the move to not to allow devotees to take a holy dip and offer Ganga Jal at Shivalingams on the pious festive occasion of Shravan Shivratri and Somwati Amavasya.