In a stampede that happened in Jodhpur yesterday, nearly 200 people died. Stampedes in India are quite common. There are many places in India which draw lots of people into extreme small confines; either it is temples, places of pilgrimage, or jewelry store during festival, or a new movie of your favorite hero.
Recently, I went to visit a tourist place. After the event, we all had to walk out and there was a narrow passageway to take care of thousands of people who wanted to exit at the same time. The crowd was a moving at a slow pace since the narrow exit allowed only few at a time. It was jam-packed and the bodies were touching each other. All of sudden some young boys egged by a rough woman who seems to be their mom or aunt started shoving and pushing because, may be they thought such pushing and shoving would make the crowd move faster, or may be, they wanted to get ahead of everyone. Whatever it was, very soon, people started to lose balance and people were falling over each other. For me, who avoids crowds as much as possible, it was frightening. It was suffocating. We were pushed from all sides, making it difficult to breathe or stand. I came close to experience a stampede, but then for some reason we got out of the passageway and the inevitable got averted. During those brief seconds, I felt that I could die there. The force of humanity can suffocate you and kill you.
At the Chamunda Devi Temple in Jodhpur, hundreds died in a stampede.
Eyewitnesses talked about some pushing and shoving in the queue by some pilgrims for an early darshan. The authorities rejected reports of any bomb scare and denied any instance of eve-teasing led to the stampede.
Greed and myopia, those essential attributes of Indians, comes into play here. Stampedes happen because a certain group suddenly feels an immense urge to jump the line and move ahead just to gain few inches of ground, and in the process, they shove others, which acts like a domino effect, toppling everyone. When thousands of people are gathered into small spaces, who are all supposed to stand, such pushing and shoving can cascade into an effect of concrete wall falling on us killing and trampling everyone in the process.
Certain amount of self-discipline, and certain imposed discipline helps here. Most of the times, we lack both of them.
In the same newspaper, I saw the picture of Mecca where thousands were praying. The picture in the newspaper showed lines after lines in an order. How come some places do it while others don’t?
I get paranoid when I am in crowds. Recently I went to a place which was on the fourth floor and housed more five hundred people and there was only one exit/entrance for the whole floor through a stairway. There was no fire escape. If for some reason, a fire broke out, many would die in stampede in an effort to get out.
There’s a school nearby where I live. Everyday I see hundreds of young children huddled into a school that has only one, extremely narrow entrance/exit. The school has constructed wall on all sides to ensure kids stay within. I keep thinking, what would happen if a fire broke out, or even if there is a false alarm, how can so many kids get out of this building which has only one narrow exit?
We hear of many cases where people get choked to death because there was no escape. Most Indian trains and buses have no provision for exiting in case of fire. People die because there is no way out. Though we hear of hundreds of cases, we still do not make provisions for ‘what if this happens?’
I see this attitude everywhere; either it is road building, hotel building, or a product building. ‘What if’ scenarios are never taken into account though we face those situations again and again. Stampedes in India are going to happen again and again, because the people do not pay heed to safety, and the administration does impose the discipline either.