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Go mandal-hopping at 2 am

Police request railways to run trains through the night during Ganeshotsav to avoid crowding; railways yet to decide, reports Megha Sood.

india Updated: Aug 20, 2009 01:30 IST
Megha Sood

This Ganeshotsav you could seek the blessings of Lalbaugcha Raja after work without worrying about the stifling crowds. The police have appealed to the railways to run trains through the night during the 10-day festival so that devotees can return home after darshan.

The police have made this request as a security measure — they don’t want people to crowd the area, especially in the backdrop of the November 26, 2008, terror attack.

Last year, over 28 lakh devotees visited the Lalbaugcha Raja and this year the police expect the number to rise — despite the swine flu scare.

“After 1.30 am, there is maximum crowd at Lalbaugcha Raja during the festival. We have observed that the main reason for this is non-availability of local trains,” said Himanshu Roy, joint commissioner of police (law and order).

He added that as no trains run between 1 am to 4 am, families who visit Lalbaug late in the night wait there. Every Ganeshotsav, the police are concerned about managing traffic and controlling the crowd, but this year combating terror is their number one priority.

“Since Ganpati and Ramzan are commencing together this year the threat is even greater,” said Roy. “We have appealed to the railways to keep the trains running throughout the night on all 10 days of the festival.” But the railway authorities are yet to take a decision.

The railways have, however, cancelled routine maintenance work that affects services and inconveniences commuters during the 10-day festival.

“We have cancelled all mega blocks during the festival so that commuters are not inconvenienced. As far as the Mumbai police’s request is concerned, we will examine its feasibility and then take a call,” said S C Mudgerikar, Central Railway’s chief spokesperson.

The police also plan to set up a 5 km long zig-zag barricade at Lalbaugcha Raja so that the crowd keeps moving. They have also informed all major mandals that the volunteers are responsible for the security of the idols.

“Besides scanning the mandals with the help of closed-circuit television cameras, metal detectors and sniffer dogs, we will also check the prasad, especially coconuts, that devotees offer,” said Roy. “We have instructed all mandals to inform devotees to not touch any unclaimed articles, even pens, lying around.”