Friday, June 9, 2023

When will we learn crowd control after the Vaishno Devi accident?


By R.K.Sinha

The heart-wrenching incident at Mata Vaishno Devi Temple on New Year’s eve has once again proved that no matter what happens, we will never learn to control the crowd. If we had learned from the prior mistakes, then the country would not have had to witness such a horrific incident again. But it is as if we have stopped learning. Suddenly at midnight,  there were loud cheers among the devotees who came to pay their respects at the shrine of the Goddess.

After that, there was a scuffle and stampede. The stampede took a terrible turn of events. Twelve pilgrims died tragically in the accident that took place around 2 am. More than a dozen people were injured. Did the local administration not know that every year on New Year’s night several devotees gather in the temple? Because of this, there is always the possibility of stampedes there.

How were so many people allowed to go upstairs to the temple at once? The management of these religious places has to learn from their mistakes. Those going to these places will also have to be more alert. Along with this, we need to prevent large crowds from gathering at any fair or religious place on special dates. Because; As soon as the crowd gathers at one place, there is also the possibility of a stampede. There should always be better and alternative arrangements for clearing the crowd. Devotees should also avoid crowded areas. They cannot put all the responsibility of their carelessness on the administration itself. Before this, we have seen the disasters of Haridwar, Kumbh, and Nashik. But we are yet to see the change in our nature.

When the threat of Omicron is looming over the country, it is beyond comprehension for devotees to flock to the Vaishno Devi temple on such a massive scale. Due to the overwhelming crowd, accidents happen not only in India but in other countries also. A few years ago, there was a tragic accident due to a stampede in Mecca. There have been major accidents in the year 2004 and again in 2006 in the race to kill the devil. If we go back a few decades, there was an enormous stampede at the Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj in 1954. Hundreds of people had lost their lives in it.

​​The accident took place due to a stampede in the crowd that had stopped suddenly for the bath of Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. The report stated that Nehru Ji had decided to take a bath before the akhadas. That angered the monks. Because of this, there was an uproar. The elephants present there were enraged. They also crushed dozens of people. However, that incident was suppressed.

Similarly, the stampede of a Kumbh in Haridwar was caused by a stampede in the crowd that was halted for the bath of the then Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Shri Veer Bahadur Singh. Unfortunately, even some vicious elements, ignoring the dignity of religious places, start doing bad things there. At first glance, it seems that the same thing must have happened in the Vaishno Devi temple. It is learned that after two o’clock in the night, there was a heated argument between some people and due to that a scuffle broke out. After this people started running away, due to which this accident happened. However, the police and administration officials reacted quickly, and, the order was immediately restored in the crowd.

By that time, the damage was done. The administration is making such a claim. But how did they let the situation worsen in the first place? In fact, at places like fairs and temples, there is always a vulture sight of the enemies of humanity. It is necessary to nullify their intentions. At the time of the last Prayag Kumbh, the Yogi government of Uttar Pradesh had trained the policemen posted in the fair from the National Security Guards i.e. NSG and Army.

They entered the situation and made sure that the threat had been neutralized. The arrangement on the same side should also be permanent in temples like Vaishno Devi. Remember that places like Vaishno Devi are bound to create a stampede when a politician, actor, or popular figure arrives. The crowd becomes furious and uncontrollable, so the administration has to act very intelligently.

Talking about the accident in Vaishno Devi, let me also say that it is a matter of great concern that in our country, during religious places and worship ceremonies, dozens of people even in the process of bathing in rivers and ponds or immersing idols. He drowns and loses his life. A few years ago, 73 people lost their lives due to drowning during Chhath Puja in Bihar alone. Around 10 people drowned during the immersion of Durga Puja in Delhi. Of course, these were all heart-breaking incidents. He also used to expose all the claims and promises of the government, which the concerned departments keep saying that “tight security arrangements have been made”.

Incidents like the accident in Vaishno Devi will stop only when the preparations of our administration are solid. Otherwise, after a few days of apologizing and compensation to the kin of the dead/injured, everything will resume as before. The officers looking after the management of Vaishno Devi should be asked what kind of preparations they had made for the possible crowd control on December 31. There was a whip on those officers who failed to discharge their duties. This incident has created an atmosphere of mourning in the whole country. Crores of people have a strong faith in the Vaishno Devi temple in the country, on which there has been a blow.

(The writer is a senior editor, columnist, and former MP. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author.)

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