One dead in stampede during 'fish prasadam' distribution

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One dead in stampede during 'fish prasadam' distribution

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Hyderabad, June 8 (IANS) One person was killed and 30 others were injured in a stampede here Friday during the distribution of the famous 'fish prasadam' medicine that some believe provides miraculous relief to asthma patients.

Seventy-year-old Gorakh Patil, a native of Maharashtra, who was injured in the stampede, died at a hospital. Ranga Reddy district collector V. Sheshadri, however, said he died following cardiac arrest while waiting for his turn in the queue.

The stampede took place at Katedan on the outskirts of the city when hundreds of asthma patients rushed towards distribution counters as the gates of the sports complex opened in the morning. Several old and weak patients fell on the ground and fainted. Police said five of the injured were admitted to hospitals.

The officials said barring the 'minor' incident in the morning, the distribution of fish medicine was progressing in a smooth manner. The distribution, which started at 8 a.m. Friday, would continue till Saturday afternoon.

Bathini Harinath Goud claimed that more than 100,000 people had turned up to take the 'fish prasadam'.

There was utter chaos as the authorities failed to make proper arrangements at this new venue, located about 10 km from Exhibition Grounds, Nampally, where the Bathini family had been earlier administering the fish medicine.

The patients gulp down a live 'murrel' fish with a yellow herbal paste in its mouth, which is believed to provide much-needed relief, if taken for three consecutive years.

For vegetarians, the family gives the medicine with jaggery.

The last minute change of venue threw the arrangements out of gear and caused severe inconvenience to patients coming from various parts of the country.

A large number of people, including women and children, had been waiting outside the gates since Thursday night. They complained of poor arrangements by the administration. Every year, authorities with the help of NGOs make elaborate arrangements for the smooth conduct of the event.

The members of the Bathini family started free administration of the 'miracle drug' at 8 a.m. The family claims to be giving the fish medicine free of cost for the last 163 years.

The family administers the medicine on the first day of 'Mrigasira Karte', which heralds the onset of monsoon.

Despite the controversies which hit the popularity of the fish drug in recent years, people continue to come every year in the hope of finding some relief to their nagging respiratory problems.

The family had been distributing the fish medicine at their ancestral house in the narrow lanes of Doodhbowli in the old city. However, in 1997, the venue was shifted to Nizam College Grounds due to communal riots in the old city. It was subsequently shifted to Exhibition Grounds to ensure smooth conduct of the event.

The fish medicine lost its popularity in recent years after some groups, working to inculcate scientific temper among people, termed it a fraud. They also approached the court, claiming that since the herbal paste contains heavy metals, it can cause serious health problems.

The Bathini family claims that the laboratory tests conducted as per court orders revealed that the herbal paste is safe. It changed the name of the fish medicine to 'fish prasadam' to avoid legal problems.

The family claims that the secret formula for the herbal medicine was given to their ancestor in 1845 by a saint after taking an oath from him that it should be administered free of cost.

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