Poor crowd management blamed for stampede that killed 6

July 4th, 2008 - 9:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, July 4 (IANS) The stampede during the rathyatra in Orissa’s Puri city Friday that killed six people and injured ten others has shocked hundreds of devotees and many feel it happened because of poor crowd management. The stampede occurred during the world-famous festival of rathyatra or chariot festival of Hindu god Jagannath when devotees tried to get close to goddess Subhadra’s chariot, which was being taken across Puri, about 65 km from state capital Bhubaneswar, an official said.

Rabindra Mohakur, a devotee who witnessed the stampede, said the incident occurred purely due to bad crowd management.

“The width of the place where the incident occurred is narrow. It was only about five feet wide. Had the police allowed fewer number of people, the mishap would have been avoided,” he told IANS.

According to a temple official, the stampede Friday is the third disaster since 1993 the city witnessed during various festivals related to Lord Jagannath.

At least four people died and around 20 others were injured in a stampede that took place in the city during a festival Nov 4, 2006.

The stampede occurred early in the morning, when a huge crowd tried to enter the shrine to have a glance of the deities on the occasion of ‘Badaosha’ festival in the Hindu month of Kartik.

As soon as the temple door opened, the crowd surged forward and some of those in the front tripped and fell in the resulting stampede.

In 1993, six people were killed in a stampede on the premises of the Jagannath temple during Nagarjuna Puja festival of the deities.

Every year the state government makes elaborate arrangements in the city during the festival deploying about 5,000 policemen.

“But the policemen take care of the important people and care less for the common devotees,” state congress president Jayadev Jena, who visited the spot after the incident, told IANS.

“VIPs, including the chief minister, most of his council of ministers and senior officials, throng Puri during the festivals. I saw large number of policemen this year taking care of them,” he said.

The state government appointed a judicial commission into the stampede that occurred inside the temple in 2003.

“But when we asked for the commission’s report after another disaster in 2006 the government said the report was missing,” a Congress lawmaker said.

The government in 2006 appointed another judicial commission to probe the missing report incident. “But we do not know the status of the latest report,” the legislator said.

Religious congregations are often vulnerable to stampede. The biggest tragedy took place at a religious congregation Feb 23, 1997 in Orissa at Madhuban, near Baripada, in the tribal district of Mayurbhanj.

At least 176 people were burnt to death and hundreds were injured when the thatched sheds meant for male devotees, who had come to attend the 46th annual conference of the devotees of Swami Nigamananda, caught fire.

Most of the victims were stranded at the only exit point.

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