When Manoj Kumar arrived at the Allahabad railway station around 7 p.m. on Sunday, it was overcrowded. It was no different along the 6.5 km route from Triveni Sangam to the station.
At the Sangam, the U.P. government had erected barricades to slow down the surging crowds. Though there were 10 designated places to take a holy dip, only three were much sought after. But the constant monitoring of the crowds there helped.
“It took me about one-and-a-half hours to reach the station. It would have taken at least three hours for the elderly persons,” said Manoj, a 31-year-old Delhi-based business analyst who was at the station when the stampede occurred.
Manoj is a native of Chennai and regularly visits the Mahamagam in Kumbakonam too. “I have been to several Kumbh mela festivals and though the facilities made by the U.P. government were impeccable, the Railways were not prepared for the crowds,” he said.
When he entered the station, there was hardly an inch of space to move. “If two people were to step out of a train, then they would have one foot on the platform and the other would be on another person,” he said.
Tripped over sleeping people
He tripped over several sleeping forms on the platform as he made his way into the station. The Railways should have deterred passengers from converting the station into a rest house, he said.
“The Railways should have realised that the crowd was coming to the station. Where else would people go? Trains were being run from Allahabad to Kanpur and Mughal Sarai. Until the tragedy, not enough trains were spotted. But after the stampede every 10 minutes there were trains. All of them were running empty as the pilgrims were not allowed to enter the station.”
Manoj said the situation was the same during the Mahamagam stampeded in Kumbakonam in 2004. “There is not enough train connectivity and people have to travel by bus. The elders find it convenient to travel by train. I hope the Railways learn from this incident. If they had planned better they could have avoided the tragedy,” he said.