Wednesday, January 17, 2018
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Don’t forget ,  slippery rain-soaked roads led to 1954 stampede

About the Mela arrangements I will make no comments. Others are expressing their views. But I would like to ask the Mela administration as to whether or not they have prepared themselves to meet the challenge that might suddenly confront them in the form of a heavy shower or even hail storm. It often happens that on main bathing days there is  a shower. Sometimes it is a passing shower. But sometimes the rain could be irritating too .When people will get drenched, what will they do, where will they flee. Will the inclement weather make people panicky ? If they rush hither-thither in panic, they may have a fall and then might even be trampled upon.
What happened in 1954? A day before  or on the occasion of Mauni Amavasya, the most important bathing day, there was a heavy shower. As a result, all roads were wet and slippery. When the mela crowd was at its peak, the Nagas in a combative spirit came down galloping in a procession . That over-awed the bathers who panicked. Some of them tried to escape from there. They ran. When a few of them fell down because of the slippery road surface, they couldn’t get up because the movement of the pilgrims was like a raging stream that couldn’t be stopped. So those who fell down were trampled upon and died. The stampede might not have occurred if only some precautionary steps had been taken to ensure that  after the rain, the slipperiness caused would be removed. But this did not happen.
I may mention that recently when our reporter returned from the Mela she complained that the chequered plates had been laid so haphazardly that their two-wheelers invariably got stuck on these. Whether this mistake has been rectified or not, I cannot say. But this apart, the authorities must also consider the possibility of rain marring the bath. In order to avoid slipperiness, what will they do? Can they do anything or will leave everything in the hands of the Ganga’
Some people suggest that if the road surface is improved to soak the water then there may be less risk for a mishap. Of course there is a world of difference between 1954 and 2013. Today the administration has made the routes safer though longer and one-way traffic would definitely help in keeping the crowds orderly. But  mishaps always come uninvited.


What about emergency shelters for pilgrims?

What about shelter for the millions if rain assumes frightening dimensions? Has the administration made any advance preparations to accommodate the drenched people? Have they given any thought to the need for setting up temporary sheds with waterproof cloth covers? They cannot be left to fend for themselves. In the past, arrangements were made to provide shelter to the pilgrims on such occasions in big school buildings having plenty of space. The schools were taken over by the administration and studies were suspended. People were accommodated in the rooms of the building and tents were set up to give shelter to as many as possible.  This is not all. Food arrangements had also to be made for them. As is well known, on such occasions, especially during an emergency, food-stalls tend to escalate their rates to the maximum to make extra profit. The administration will have to step in on such occasions in order to provide enough food to all. Special arrangements were made for milk that was needed by the countless number of children who had accompanied their parents to receive the blessings of Mother Ganga on this auspicious occasion.
Have we made any contingency plan to meet a crisis situation like this? The Mela administration has been extending deadlines, one after the other and now 10th January has been fixed as the last date for completion of all work. Isn’t this postponement of ‘deadlines’ a slur on the efficiency of those deputed to complete the task within a fixed time frame? If we take a look at the ‘deadlines’ that have been flouted, we will be left aghast. Was any strict action taken against the defaulters? There was enough time in the past to be strict. Now there is virtually no time and we have to pray that all will be well ultimately.
Health arrangements have been made to perfection, I am told. But will the authorities concerned have enough medicine in stock to treat the patients rushing to them with complaints of fever, cough and cold?

Last year, many bathers, after the dip, complained of itching all over the body. Presumably they were allergic to the chemically-treated  water. This year too complaints about skin diseases may appear in large number, notwithstanding the efforts of the Government to ensure supply of clean water from Narora.  The water may appear to be clean but it might actually have picked up some deadly germs on the way  before reaching Allahabad. Would it be too much to suggest that the administration should test the quality of so-called clean water that might be  reaching Allahabad from the upper reaches of the river?

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