Karnataka temple food tragedy toll up 13; two detained

Bengaluru: The toll has gone up to 13 from eight in the Friday’s suspected food poisoning at a village temple in Karnataka’s Chamarajanagar district. Two persons were detained for interrogation, a Minister said on Saturday.

“So far, 13 devotees have died in the tragic incident at Sulavadi’s Maramma temple in Hanur taluk of Chamarajanagar district. Two persons have been detained for interrogation and the case is being investigated,” tweeted state Deputy Chief Minister G. Parameshwara, who also holds the Home portfolio.

Around 65 people — men, women and children — who also fell ill after taking the same adulterated food are being treated in state-run and private hospitals in the district, about 180km southwest of Bengaluru.

“I have instructed the Muzarai (Endowment) department to be alert and avoid such incidents at any temple in the state,” said Parameshwara.

The temple deity Maramma, considered an incarnation of Hindu Goddess Durga, is worshipped for blessings before starting any work or function.

Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, who announced Rs 5-lakh compensation to the kin of the victims, assured the sick devotees being treated in hospitals that the state government would meet their medical expenses.

“I have directed the district administration, including the police to conduct an inquiry into the tragic incident and book the guilty,” said Kumaraswamy in a statement on Friday night.

State Congress President Dinesh Gundu Rao announced Rs 1-lakh relief from the party fund to each of the bereaved families and assured them of stringent action against the guilty.

Congress senior leader and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah also visited one of the hospitals at Mysuru where some of the affected devotees are being treated and enquired about their well-being.

“I never heard of temple prasada (offering) being poisoned. The incident of this magnitude is unimaginable. I am shocked over the tragedy. It’s a most inhuman act and is deplorable,” Siddaramaiah told reporters later.

He also advised the priests and management of temples to ensure the safety of the prasada being distributed to devotees.

The district police registered a case of negligence against a private trust managing the temple, belonging to the Lingayat community.