The stampede at Naina Devi temple in Himachal Pradesh that killed over 150 and injured scores has again raised the debate for an effective mechanism and management to deal with any such mishappening whether natural or accidental. Though Sunday’s stampede in a crowded religious place is not new in India, but due to the absence of an urgent responsive set up the causality resulted the highest.
The stampede occurred around 11 am at the popular temple in Bilaspur district of Himachal Pradesh. As per temple official about 25,000 devotees were gathered on the auspicious occasion of Navratra, an annual nine-day festival. As per eyewitness report, the accident occurred when someone raised a false alarm of landslide and eventually people standing in a long queue started rushing back on the narrow lane leading from the peak. All death mostly women and children occurred due to crush.
However, due to the absence of any immediate medical help the death toll increased further to the unexpected figure. Most injured died on their way to the civil hospital located in the neighbouring state Punjab, which is at 30 kilometre distant from the accident spot. Adding to woes, the late response from the district administration further made the matter worse.
Such incidents of accidental deaths have multiplied in the past decade but neither Centre nor the respective State Government has any planned approach to evade the tragedy. Any accidental deaths due to unnatural causes like this one is preventable in nature and can be reduced by effective safety measures. The Sunday’s tragedy is not the only one in the Naina Devi temple complex, but in a similar stampede in 1981, 53 people died by the absence of a good number of exit point.
The other most surprising fact is the absence of proper health care facility near the temple in terms of an equipped clinic. People have to travel a lot simply to receive a first-aid treatment; the near by community health centre has only one doctor. Undoubtedly it was the mismanagement of temple authority causing the incident and later a heavy-eyed district administration in terms of making available the necessary steps taken up for rescue and rehabilitation.
Apart from August 27, 2003, when 40 people died in a temple stampede in Nashik, Maharatsra and the most tragic one occurred on January 24, 2005, at Mandhar Devi temple in Maharastra leaving over 250 dead and double the number injured, there are many more small and large incidents of stampeded has been recorded, especially in crowded religious places. It is therefore essential for the administration to come up with special traffic management plans along with basic and needed services.
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