“It is always wiser to manage the Crowd rather than controlling it”
Crowd Management has been a very serious concern over years in the temples, shrines, mass gathering, pilgrimages etc. In this article, I am taking example of one world pilgrimage named Shri Naina Devi Ji to express my experience and learning through this blog.
About Shri Naina Devi Ji:
This is a world famous pilgrimage is situated in the lap of Shivalik hills in District Bilaspur of Himachal Pradesh state touching its south borders with the Punjab state. Though millions of pilgrims visit this holy shrine every year, but the Crowd Management issue becomes very sensitive during the Shravan Navratre (August Month) every year.
Shravan Navratre is the time when around 50% of total annual pilgrims visit Shri Naina Devi Ji. The sensitivity of this issue can be understood from the fact that earlier in the same Navratre season in August 2008, more than 260 pilgrims including children, elderly and women had lost their lives and many hundred injured severely in a stampede.
This article will be an effort to understand the existing Crowd Management Measures and also highlighting some grey areas which need improvement.
First of all, we need to understand that what a Crowd is?
I would say it is a mass gathering for a common concern generally, but the individual is not able to take his own decision and action when becomes a part of Crowd.
For example, when you are part of moving Crowd, you cannot stop even if you willing to do as the movement from backside will not allow you to do so. Even if you succeed in doing this, it will create instability in the Crowd causing panic and sometimes rumours resulting in catastrophic results.
There are a numbers of Crowd types such as Casual Crowd, Expressive Crowd, Conventional Crowd and Acting Crowds.
As per my understanding, I consider pilgrim based crowd as Action Crowd. Because, generally such Crowds can turn in to Action Crowd (Panic Crowd and Mob) easily due to its exposure to vulnerable situations inside and outside crowd.
Pressure Points are the sensitive and vulnerable characteristics having potential to cause disturbance, panic and instability in a Crowd Movement. Some of the examples are diversions, confluence of two or more ways etc. Crowd pressures at such locations have resulted in people being pushed over guard rails, down stairs, or in structural failure of guard rails (Similar Example is of Naina Devi Stampede).
Existing Preparations for Crowd Management by Local Administration:
- Restricting Vehicular Movements near the Pilgrimage (All entry points):
This is one of the important strategies in Crowd Management. At mountainous places like Shri Naina Devi Ji, where the roads/ pathways are narrow and steep, the vehicular movements are restricted by the local administration as it can create chaos and panic in the Moving Crowd.
- Sectoral Segmentation of the Pilgrimage:
This is another important aspect of Crowd Management. It is done to management the quantum of Crowd. These sectors also act as Guides and Instructors for the pilgrims facilitating them and thus reducing the possibilities of any panic and chaos situation in the crowd.
- Initiating One Way Traffic:
This is an instrumental method of managing Crowd tool. One Way Crowd Traffic reduces chances of stampede and also facilitates a smooth movement of crowd.
- Registration Check Points:
Registration Check Points also play a major role in Crowd Management. This is a very important tool in in maintain the Pressure Points safer as it gives time to the front lot of crowd to meet their purpose. i.e. Darshan at Pilgrimage. A Registration Check Point at every entrance to the Naina Devi town is set up during Shravan Navratre season.
- Managing Crowd in the Campus:
- Zig-Zag Guard Railings:
This is yet another very important of Crowd Management. The Campus layout is structured in such a manner that the Crowd has to enter zig-zag guard railings before reaching the main entrance of the temple. This practice gives time to the front movers in the crowd.
- Pilgrims In flow-Out flow Ratio:
This ratio has to be maintained continuously. A standard rate maintained by the local administration if of 60 persons per minute.
Major Grey Areas:
- Narrow paths with steep gradient and sometimes with insufficient guard rails:
During movement towards Shri Naina Devi Temple, the pilgrims have to walk over narrow paths having step gradient more than 50 degree at some points. Lack of sufficient guard rails at such points increases the vulnerability for a stampede like situation.
- Communication Systems:
There is some space for improvement in Communication and Announcement systems. Setting up Audio Video Devices including CCTVs can be instrumental in Crowd Management Planning and operations.
In my next article, I will be sharing basic Do’s and Don’ts for safety of the persons stuck in Crowd related situation.
I will highly appreciate if my esteemed readers contribute towards value addition in this article with their valuable feedback!