The day the country lost 11 lives in Jharkhand in a stampede at a place of worship, the state's very own Golden Temple in Amritsar could offer important lessons in crowd safety and managing a large number of people jostling for space. More than 80,000 people visit the shrine daily with the number going up to more than 2 lakh on religious festivals.
One of the most critical measures adopted at the shrine that prevents a stampede - there has been none here so far - is barricading of the 'Parikrama' (encircling area) between the Akal Takht and the Darshani Deori (the opening gates). This ensures that people move out through a different route than the one way they came in.
This also separates devotees who are yet to pay obeisance at the sanctum sanctorum from those who have."Our staff, particularly of the sewadar cadre, has learnt through experience to handle large crowds not just at the Golden Temple, but also in other important gurdwaras we manage," states Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the body that manages gurdwara in the state, additional secretary Daljit Singh Bedi.
50 sewadars on duty all round the clock
At any given time of the day, around 50 sewadars remain stationed all along the parkirama of the shrine and man entrances to the shrine.
"The sewadars never allow a large crowd to gather and also keep a close watch on devotees taking a dip in the sarovar. The only instructions that we give is to be polite with pilgrims," Bedi adds.
Role of barricading
The barricading is not permanent and is easily removed, when needed. The number of check-points or the barricades between the Darshani Deori and the sanctum sanctorum could be from three-five depending upon the rush.
This is the key crowd control measure and prevents too many people collecting at a single spot. As per the usual practice, only groups of around 20 are allowed to proceed at a time.
Even inside the sanctum sanctorum, sewadars keep nudging the devotees not to stand and keep moving.
"The area between the sanctum sanctorum and Darshani Deori is divided in two halves with permanent steel frames. One path is used for devotees going inside while the other is for those coming out after paying obeisance," Bedi from SGPC adds.
Even the entry of people into the langar (community kitchen) is regulated by the sewadars.
The CCTV network at the Golden Temple, at present, is functioning as more of a support system for sewadars. The feed goes to a centralised control room, from where any unusual activity is communicated to the sewadars to take a decision on the spot.