In a first of its kind, an Indo-Dutch team of scientists will use drones, satellite mapping and tracking devices during the Simhastha Kumbh in Ujjain to study micro crowd movements and later develop a stampede prediction software.
The 14-member team has chosen the one-month long Simhastha festival in Madhya Pradesh as the study site for over 5 crore people are expected to visit the place and the state has a long history of stampedes..
According to official records, in 2013, about 115 people were killed in a stampede at a temple in Datia district. In 2012, 12 pilgrims were killed in a stampede at the shrine Hussain ki Tekri in Ratlam district.
Scientists from the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore and the University of Amsterdam will handle the project, which is part of a joint collaboration between the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).The project, costing around R3,8 crore, could prove effective in India where large religious gatherings and stampedes were common, chief investigator, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, Ashish Verma said.
He said Peter Sloot, who is professor of computational sciences at Amsterdam university, would be the principal investigator of the project from the Dutch side. “My 10 research associates are already in Ujjain to prepare GIS map of the entire Ujjain city, where we have been granted land for our base camp. We call our camp Indo-Dutch akhada,” Verma said.
“What we will do is study crowd mobility through various means like CCTVs, drones, special e-lockets through which we can track a sample of devotees to have a fair idea what is happening inside the crowd at any given time, like crowd density, crowd volume and crowd behavior,” he said Verma.
One of the most important factors was to study and predict the psychological behaviour of the crowd at any given time. “Stampedes do not occur just because of large crowds. We know during such gatherings, especially when it is a religious congregation, the psychological behaviour assumes much importance. At certain important events like final darshan or holy dip, a small trigger like a rumour can lead to a stampede. So our study will take care of psychological behaviour of the crowd as well,” he said.
Detailing the process of making a predictive software, Verma said the Simhastha crowd data would be analysed through specially developed algorithms. “These algorithms or software would then be used for simulation to come up with the possibility of a stampede in a particular crowd, say up to half an hour before it actually starts.” This model can then be used for prediction for any large congregation in any part of the world, he said, adding, “We are aiming to deliver the core components of an entire crowd management solution.” This, he said, would mean from designing and building personnel devices for tracking movement to the analyses of the associated data and the advanced computational models to help predict how the crowd may evolve.
Major stampedes at religious places in MP
July 15, 1996: 39 people lost their life in a stampede at Mahakal temple in Ujjain.
April, 2005: 100 pilgrims were swept away at Dharaji ghats, 100 km from Dewas, when Narmada river started rising suddenly after water discharge from a dam.
October 1, 2006: 49 people got reportedly washed away in Sindh river at the same spot in Datia where stampede claimed over 115 plus lives later in 2013.
March 27, 2008: Eight people died and 12 others were seriously injured in a stampede at Sita Temple ground situated in Kareela.