A day after the stampede at the Godavari Maha Pushkaram, order returned to the bathing ghats in this city on Wednesday and the mood changed from funereal to festive. Police and revenue officers worked to bring systems under control and kept a watch on the proceedings.
Safety bandobust was stepped up at the ghats, particularly the Pushkar Ghat at the gates of which 28 people died in Tuesday’s stampede. Pilgrims moved along in streamlined queues to the bathing areas. The striking difference in the arrangements seen on Wednesday was the erection of barricaded queue lines right up to the ghat entry points, which had been missing on Tuesday. The queues discharged pilgrims directly onto the ghats and minders ensured that there was no build-up of people at any point.
The absence of this simple regulatory measure was clearly the cause of the stampede on Tuesday morning: Pilgrims milled restlessly on the town side of the gates while the vast forecourt of the bathing ghat was empty. And when the gates were thrown open suddenly, a river of people gushed out with horrific consequences.
The scene at this gate on Wednesday was a complete contrast to what it was 24 hours earlier: where people desperately tried to scale up the gates or hauled aloft their children to protect them from the heaving crush on Tuesday, pilgrims marched along in peace until they reached the ghats on Wednesday.
To everybody’s surprise, queues have come up near the NTR statue at the ghat too, which had been kept open for free movement of VVIPs’ vehicles.
It was here that Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu’s convoy was parked on Tuesday eventually getting marooned among a sea of pilgrims. This glitch too was rectified on Wednesday, with lines taking pilgrims past this stretch too.
Secondly, volunteers from organisations such as Satya Sai Seva Samithi, have been enlisted in huge numbers to man the queues at the Pushkar Ghat.
At the Kotilingala ghat, the largest bathing ghat in the country, RSS cadres took over crowd management. Students from various colleges in the city, National Service Scheme (NSS) volunteers and members of various NGOs were positioned at the bathing ghats to help and regulate the crowd.