Stampedes and disasters at religious places are not new to Madhya Pradesh. Three massive stampedes at shrines in the state in less than five years are a grim reminder of the fact that the administration and police have not learnt any lessons from previous failures.
Sunday’s stampede at Datia in which at least 89 people died underlines the sheer ineptitude of the authorities responsible for the safety and security of the thousands of people who visited the shrine over the past ten days.
Datia witnessed a stampede in 2006 in which nearly 50 people lost their lives and it was after this that the state government constructed a 500-metre-long bridge on the river Sindh to make it easier for devotees to reach the temple. Before this they had to cross the river on boats.
On Sunday, however, the police and local administration were exposed.
“There seems to have been no plan to monitor, schedule, control and pause the stream of people converging at the temple,” said a senior Indore police officer who did not want to be named. If such measures were not in place, it is no surprise that there was no contingency plan either.
But the police and administration did not admit to any failure on their part. The police claimed they had made better arrangements this time compared to previous years to contain any untoward incident. But they claimed that the mob turned violent.
More than 450 policemen were deployed and about 150,000 people visited the shrine -- almost double the number last year -- during the 10-day festival. Also, the space allotted for the mela at the shrine was not big enough for so many people, the police said.