NEW DELHI

Chaos reigns at Pragati Maidan

NEW DELHI NOV. 24. Chaos reigned supreme at the India International Trade Fair (IITF) today as the last weekend before the official closure of the fair witnessed a record turnout at Pragati Maidan. With a sea of people swarming the venue, for once even the vast Pragati Maidan seemed too small to accommodate Delhi's denizens.

Despite extensive crowd control measures taken by the India Trade Promotion Organisation and the Delhi police, Sunday was a logistical nightmare for the organisers as much as for the visitors. A stampede near the Delhi pavilion in the afternoon further worsened matters. According to officials, the stampede was prompted by a false alarm of a short circuit near the pavilion.

For those who did manage to enter, "survival of the fittest'' was never a more appropriate term. Trouble started at the entrance gates itself, with long winding queues seen at the ticket counters. Then it was another interminable wait at almost all the entrance gates for security check.

The situation was the worst at Gate No. 2. with the narrow passageway to Hall No. 18 restricting access. The problem was further compounded by the huge rush at the China pavilion, which is housed inside the hall. Both international participants and domestic producers are displaying electronics and Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) here, accounting for the teeming mass.

With the exception of the Defence Exhibition, every major hall and State exhibitions faced the same problem. Due to the crowds, many enthusiasts were forced to return even after travelling long distances. Dhatri Verma, resident of Punjabi Bagh, said: "Though we came to see the fair, we decided to skip the fair seeing the crowd. Its unsafe to go in with small children.'' The influx was at its peak about 2 p.m. with the main thoroughfare overflowing with people and hardly room to walk on. The shuttle service ferrying people from the parking lots to the venue was also rendered ineffective with no room for the buses to move.

It was only later in the day, that the organisers initiated movement control measures to regulate the inflow of people across the various halls. With instructions being given on the public address system, Delhi traffic police personnel along with volunteers regulated the movement of people, herding crowds and allowing them limited time inside the halls.

Even outside the venue, traffic snarls and parking woes plagued the visitors. However, the situation was considerably better than Tuesday, a public holiday on account of Guru Nanak Jayanti, when the organisers had been virtually caught unawares.