Tread with caution: Lessons need to be learned from recent stampedes in Andhra Pradesh

Since the bifurcation, more than 36 people in the newly formed Andhra Pradesh state have lost lives in stampedes at public events

January 06, 2023 08:54 am | Updated 01:01 pm IST - GUNTUR

Thousands gathered to collect gift kits at a meeting held in Guntur on Sunday by a TDP sympathizer in which a stampede happened. Photo: Handout

Thousands gathered to collect gift kits at a meeting held in Guntur on Sunday by a TDP sympathizer in which a stampede happened. Photo: Handout

Organising large mass gatherings is always a risky affair and the stakes are even higher when it comes to managing tens of thousands of people.

While popular political leaders and movie stars pull huge crowds, they don’t seem to be mindful of the magnitude of chaos the organisers have to mitigate while conducting these programmes. The series of mishaps caused by crowd mismanagement in recent times leave us with one question—Are the political parties, celebrities and we, the public, learning any lessons from these tragedies?

Since the bifurcation, more than 36 people in the newly formed Andhra Pradesh state have lost lives in stampedes occurring at public events.

Before the deaths of 25 people during the Godavari Pushkarams at Rajahmundry in 2015 could fade out of the public memory, eight died in the Kandukur stampede in the last week of 2022, and three deaths were reported at the Guntur stampede on the very first day of the new year. Yet, it seems that no lessons were learnt.

It is distressing that it is often the elderly, women, children and physically challenged people who succumb to death during the massive stampedes.  

With the general elections a little over 14 months away, the two major political parties in the State — YSRCP and TDP—in a bid to woo the public have been organising various public events and roadshows promising freebies.

Guntur stampede

Among such events was the massive free essentials kits distribution programme sponsored by TDP supporter and NRI, Vuyyuru Srinivasa Rao, in Guntur city on New Year’s Day. TDP chief Nara Chandrababu Naidu attended the programme as the chief guest.

More than 20,000 people gathered at the venue after much propaganda by the organisers. Women made beeline for the free gift kit that consisted of a sari, 1 kg cooking oil, tamarind, onion and other essentials.

Mr. Naidu gave a speech, distributed the kits to a few women and left the venue at around 6 p.m.. However, the thousands of women who have been made to wait for more than five hours then got impatient and resorted to pushing and jostling each other in a haste to grab their kits. Within minutes, the crowds started rushing towards the distribution counters.  

All hell broke loose when the crowd tried to push their way through to the barricades, resulting in a gruesome stampede. Three women died and several others were injured in the stampede. Several women fell unconscious and had to be admitted to hospital.

Following this, additional police forces were deployed and the situation was brought under control after about one-and-a-half hours. More than 200 policemen manning the area were caught off guard when the stampede broke out. However, they soon jumped into action and helped the injured.

There were more than 100 volunteers at the venue to organise the event. They joined hands with the police to shift the injured to the hospital. 

Many lapses

The Guntur stampede has exposed the failure of the organisers in planning such a large-scale event wherein thousands are expected to take part. The organisers, who have conducted a massive mobilisation programme, have failed to foresee the consequences of any untoward incidents that could happen.

The failure on the part of the police also cannot be ignored as they could not anticipate the possibility of a stampede, knowing that the crowd that gathered was more than expected or than what was informed by the organisers while taking permission. 

It is also to be noted that the organisers choose to disburse the kits directly from the trucks parked on the venue grounds, through the volunteers. Some who attended the meeting, however, feared that they might not get their hands on the kits and rushed towards the trucks, leading to chaos and stampede.

The incident, however, highlights the many lapses from both the organisers and the government departments.

Ideally, the police, revenue and other department officials should thoroughly verify the venue of such meetings, conduct a safety audit of the venue including the entry and exit routes and keep the emergency fire tenders available.

A separate lane should be arranged for ambulance movement and there should be medical help and toilets made available for the people attending such meetings.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.