Bihar stampede: Lessons learnt and unlearnt

  • Ramesh Babu and Rai Atul Krishna, Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram/ Patna
  • Updated: Oct 05, 2014 10:52 IST

Lessons are learnt from stampedes in India, only to be unlearnt in some cases.

Take the case of Sabarimala in Kerala. This hilltop temple has witnessed three major mishaps since 1952 killing 229 people, the last one in 2011 due to a stampede triggered by the collision of a vehicle.

The state government announced judicial probes after every tragedy but the reports are gathering dust. The police handling pilgrims’ security thus turn to god if the October-January pilgrimage season passes off without any incident. “We offer special pujas thanking the presiding deity,” a senior police officer posted at the shrine said.

Experts had in vain suggested spreading out the ‘darshan’ time to ease pressure on the shine while the Kerala police introduced a virtual queue system that failed.

The government, though, has been fairly successful with sensitising some 3 crore pilgrims about the ecologically sensitive Sabarimala since it is situated in the midst of Periyar Tiger Reserve.

The Bihar government too did not learn any lesson from the November 19, 2012 stampede on the bank of river Ganga during Chhath, the state’s biggest festival dedicated to the sun god. That stampede left 18 dead. A rumour that the makeshift bridge had come in contact with a live wire triggered the stampede.

Following a probe, Bihar’s principal secretary (home) Amir Subhani identified three factors responsible for the tragedy. “Each of these factors came into play again on Friday’s Dussehra disaster,” a senior bureaucrat told HT.

In the case, some miscreants had played a ‘live wire’ prank on electricity supply officials, who without verifying, cut power to the area. The ensuing darkness and narrow exits caused confusion.

Friday’s stampede during Dussehra, locals said, could have been avoided had the barricades installed for frisking been removed before the conclusion of the festivities to widen the entrance gate to its full width.

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