The month-long Shravani Mela, which begins on July 19 at the pilgrim town of Deoghar, will be monitored by officials through a high-tech system to prevent any untoward incident.
Authorities will use hi-tech gadgets such as drones and CCTV cameras, besides crowd-monitoring mobile applications, to ensure that mishaps such as last year’s stampede – which killed 10 people and injured 50 – do not recur.
Shravani Mela, the state’s biggest annual socio-religious event, is frequented by over 40 lakh devotees from places across the country and abroad.
Last year’s tragedy occurred when crowds of devotees broke the queue near the famous Lord Shiva temple – resulting in complete chaos. The administration had failed to assess the sudden accumulation of devotees at one place.
According to Deoghar officials, the monitoring system will enable government officials to observe the queue live on their mobile phones and take action if anything goes amiss. “We are procuring three drone cameras for a month to monitor the area aerially. A special application called ‘live monitoring’, connected to a GPS system, has been uploaded on the officials’ mobile phones,” Deoghar superintendent of police A Vijaya Laxmi said, adding that three control rooms have also been set up.
Besides this, 48 CCTV cameras have been installed at strategic locations in and around the temple, officials said. Over 20,000 police personnel and 16 magistrates will also handle the crowd during the mela.
Jharkhand chief secretary Rajbala Verma has directed officials to identify “black points” on the route taken by Kanwariyas – disciples of Lord Shiva – and other accident-prone paths. Rumble strips will be laid in all such danger zones. The Deoghar administration has also decided to enlist the help of 200 civil defence volunteers. After being provided with uniforms and identity cards, they will be integrated with local police stations. Over 1,000 sanitation workers are also being deployed to ensure cleanliness and good hygiene in the area.
Meanwhile, the state health department has set up a special team to prevent adulteration of food items. A senior health department official said two food safety officers, KP Singh and Gulab Lakra, were deputed from the state headquarters in Ranchi to monitor the situation.
Incidentally, there is a huge demand for pedas (sweetmeats) of Deoghar during the month-long festival. Local confectioners often use a spurious version of khoa – a dairy product – to meet the demand. Raids conducted by the health department in 2015 had found that sweets from 25 of 80 outlets in Deoghar contained adulterants over permissible levels.
This year, the health department has tied up with common service centres (pragya kendras) to register small food outlets under the Food Safety and Standard Act, and ensure that spurious sweets are not manufactured.