Crowd control lessons unlearned
The tragic stampede near the Ratangarh Temple reiterates the crying need to put an end to such incidents. The biggest problem with the administrative apparatus in India is that it is still to come to grips with controlling large congregations, especially at small religious places, and most of the time it is loath to learn and experiment. Almost similar stampedes in Jodhpur in 2008, and in Sabarimala in 2011, had claimed precious lives. More disheartening is the fact that more than 50 people had lost their lives in 2006, by the water released from the Mandikheda dam in Ratangarh, and subsequently, a bridge was built over the Sindh river.
The Justice S K Pandey Commission Report on the tragedy was neither made public nor tabled in the House, and demands from the RTI activists have come a cropper. Crowd management is an art, as well as a science, and a fine balance needs to be struck to avoid lakhs of people from running amok. Not every annual event will witness the same people turnout, and the district administration should have the foresight to comprehend this fact
All states would do well by involving the temple authorities in chalking out comprehensive plans to prevent stampedes because larger congregations in several important religious places in the country have been maintained without untoward incidents.
Met department’s timing was off
The IIT Bombay professor who read the cyclone alert in the Bay of Bengal on October 7 in the US Army and Navy Website and immediately passed it on to the National Disaster Management Authority, Prof Kapil Gupta, of the department of civil engineering
(my former colleague at the IIT), deserves to be complimented for doing such a yeoman service to humanity by helping disaster teams to swing into action five days in advance, which was responsible for saving so many lives by massive evacuation. The IMD could have done a better job in estimating the time of the landfall of the cyclone — our TV channels went on repeating that the cyclone was 30 km off Gopalpur for some three hours. With a speed of 200km/hour it would have taken only 10 minutes to reach the coast! .
Home ministry’s symbolic move
It is understood that the Union Home Ministry may bring an amendment to Article 81 of the Constitution to reserve seats in Parliament for legislators from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. This move is only a symbolic claim to our territory occupied by Pakistan. It is a foolishly stubborn and obstinate idea, because that goes against bilateral engagement with Pak, as expressed in Thimphu and Male. The subject discussed in these meetings were our concern for terrorism originated in Pak soil against India, economic integration, sports and cultural exchanges with Pak etc. Therefore, the Union Home Ministry’s proposal in this regard contradicts our policy content on bilateral engagement with that nation.
C Koshy John
So, will it be Priyanka or Rahul?
As per a report circulating in the media, the Congress Party is seriously thinking of requesting Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra to undertake nationwide campaigning for the Lok Sabha polls of 2014. This is being ostensibly done to blunt the whirlwind propaganda drive led by Narendra Modi, the BJP’s PM nominee. Does this mean that the efforts made by the mother-son duo in the direction so far have failed to produce the desired result? And if by chance, the sister succeeds in achieving what the elder sibling was unable to do, then who would be crowned at the helm of the affairs, the prince or the princess?
Wetland construction is our undoing
Please refer to the news item ‘Ban construction on wetlands in State, HC tells govt’ (October 15).
This order is welcome and the state government must implement it with immediate effect as directed by the HC. However, my experience with the government does not give me that confidence. The main reason for the collapse of buildings even before they are30-40 years old, is that most of such buildings are constructed on wetland. In fact, the region from Mira-Bhayandar to Dahanu and Thane to Kalyan, including Mumbra, is 70 per cent wetland. During the last three decades, huge buildings have come up on the said land. The entire land in this belt was for fishing, for generations, which, after 1980, became a construction hub.
We moved the HC in 2007 through a PIL for the demolition of illegal construction on such land, including government land. The honourable HC directed the state government, but the state failed in implementation. Today if one moves in the region, one will find that wetlands are being reclaimed for multi-storey buildings. As far as urban development department is concerned , it does not have the manpower to implement the HC order. And political parties are almost working for the builder lobby. In this situation, who will save our wetlands?
Can Mumbai handle a Phailin?
This refers to the editorial, ‘Tragedy averted’ (October 15). Odisha and Andhra Pradesh have demonstrated their ability to handle a massive cyclone. But what about Maharashtra, especially Mumbai? The financial capital of India is not prepared to deal with a future Phaillin. Where are the cyclone shelters? Lakhs of people live near the sea in buildings, slums,and fishermen’s colonies. Buildings near the seashore command a premium in the realty market. Where is the information on what intensity the city’s buildings can withstand wind speed of more than 300 kmph? Such vital information is not disclosed in marketing campaigns of new buildings, or even existing buildings. So we are virtually asitting duck for a storm or a cyclone. There is a general belief that the three places of worship – Haji Ali, Mumbadevi Temple and Mahalaxmi Temple are saving Mumbai. Can we afford to be complacent? It is time to wake up, and build cyclone shelters, not only in Mumbai, but also in other coastal cities of Maharashtra.
Deendayal M Lull