On October 15, last year, those commuting to and from the Visakhapatnam airport had to face the ordeal of getting stuck in heavy traffic for over five hours, on the National Highway here, due to massive traffic snarls.
The traffic was chock-a-block, and some commuters took over two hours to move 2 km from the airport to NAD Kotha Road, while dozens of others ended up missing their flights.
The reason for the jam was the crowd that had gathered near the airport in unprecedented numbers to welcome Jana Sena Party leader Pawan Kalyan.
While the JSP leaders say that the gathering was spontaneous, the police and the other concerned authorities say that the roadshow was unplanned and that the police were not informed about it.
The blame game turned serious when arrests were made, and tension prevailed over the city for the next 48 hours. But this is what happens after such incidents.
A similar turn of events occurred after the lives of 11 persons were snuffed out in two stampedes that occurred within one week, at two separate incidents at Nellore and Guntur.
Both incidents happened at political meetings, and they took considerable space in the national media. The post-mortem has begun and the State Government has already passed a GO promulgating restrictions on public meetings.
However, what needs to be done to prevent such untoward incidents needs to be pondered.
Types of crowd
The basic issue is about crowd management and if there are any untoward incidents, it can be termed as the failure of ‘crowd management’.
Coming to types of crowds, there are basically two types—friendly and hostile— and the treatment and arrangements meted out for both are different.
Normally, the crowd at public meetings are said to be ‘friendly’ but, there is always an element of ‘unpredictability’ which the authorities concerned should understand and prepare for, said a former SP-rank officer.
What needs to be done
In any public meeting, the thumb rule is the compartmentalisation of the crowd. There should be separate enclosures for women, party cadres, leaders, VIPs, VVIPs, press, party functionaries and others. Even the entry and access control should be dealt with separately.
Another important aspect is conducting dry runs or rehearsals, and that is why all official functions, be it IFR, PFR, Simhachalam Chandanotsavam or CM’s meeting, were conducted smoothly. Even Vizag Garjana, which was held on the same day (October 15), was conducted smoothly.
But when it came to meetings or events of opposition parties, there is an element of reluctance and the nitty-gritty is not followed as desired, admitted the officer.
But at the same time, the opposition parties also try to hide the details, particularly on the expected crowd, timings, events and a few other things, he added.
Many senior police officials are of the opinion that the proper tuning of minds between the police force and the organisers is essential during such times.
Well, there may always be technical issues or last-minute changes that can lead to a disaster, as is the case with the ‘Godavari Pushkaralu’ in 2015, in which about 27 people were killed, the officers pointed out.