In a populous country like India where the numbers at any special event, particularly those of religious significance, are so great as to present difficulties in crowd management, it is incumbent upon governments to make the best possible arrangements. However, no amount of advance preparations, despite the spending of more than Rs 1,000 crore, seems to help. When the country’s VIP culture adds a deadly dimension to a mishap like the stampede at the Godavari Maha Pushkaram, it makes us wonder if the authorities will ever get crowd-control right. The Andhra Pradesh chief minister’s arrival at a bathing ghat earmarked for the general public rather than the one reserved for VIPs seems to have triggered a fateful response from a restive crowd of lakhs of people waiting for a holy dip on an occasion that occurs once in 144 years.
The 27 deaths in the Rajahmundry stampede is reflective of how little attention is paid to the ordinary pilgrims as opposed to arrangements for VIPs wishing to participate in the midst of such crowds. The need to get at the truth of where arrangements failed is not to witch-hunt officers who may have seen their plans of crowd-control being overwhelmed by the crush of humanity. The rationale for a probe would be to find out where the failure lay so that we learn to effect better control. The mere announcement of compensation and a statutory probe is hardly likely to leave us any wiser. The inability to protect the lives of Indian citizens is illustrative of a grave failure of attitude.