Theni Fire, Blame Game! Who’s fault is it?

Is a life worth only Rs.200?

A fatal and massive fire erupted in the forest of Theni district late on Sunday with the area being covered in tall lemongrass.39 people who were part of a Women’s Day trek, consisting of mostly women, some men and children were part of the trek, and they were coming down the slopes from Bodinayyakanur when they got trapped in the forest fire in the Kurangani area. According to reports and updates, 12 are dead, 17 have been hospitalized and another 10 in shock.

So many stories have been floating around with public opinion blaming the trekkers and the trekkers blaming government officials and politicians questioning trekkers. Here’s what happened: 2 separate group of trekkers had met ate the foot of the Kurangani area and proceeded forward after a mishap with government officials. Prabhu of Tour De India Holidays, one of the organisers of the Erode trek that organised the trek for 12 people has been arrested by the police. Chennai Trekkers Club (CTC) had 27 persons for the two-day trek at Kurangani forest led by organiser Peter Van Geit a well-known figure as he did several volunteer work during the Chennai 2015 floods.

The Trekkers Story:

Some of the trekkers were seasoned trekkers and knew the path like the back of their hand. The trekkers also claim they met Forest Department officials at the check-post and had paid Rs.200 per person for each member of the trekking team.

It is important to note here that the trekker groups were ill suited for bad situations including no guidance. Once the fire started they had to rely on one leader to guide all 39 members to safety. Many of them panicked and fled in groups which led to tragedy. In fact they hadn’t even carried a satellite phone and only one person was able to alert the police with a mild signal on her phone.

The Officials Story:

Officials posted at Theni denied taking Rs.200 at first. The officials initially also claimed that the trekkers had somehow sneaked in without their notice into the area; later they changed it and said the Erode group took permission but the Chennai group did not. When pressed with evidence of them taking Rs.200 the officials claimed they gave the trekkers clear instructions on which path to take but the trekkers had strayed away from the same.

Locals Speak

Locals in the town blamed both of them citing the low research done and ill-equipped information on the trekkers part and the insufficiency of the officials saying the forest department should have stopped them.

Whoever is the blame on, 12 of the lives have been lost…


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