PRAYAG, FEBRUARY 11, 2013: On the tragic stampede at the Prayag railway station that killed around 37 devotees and injured many, VHP International Working President Dr Pravin Togadia has expressed grief and agony. He said that the devotees who lost their lives and limbs for no fault of theirs were Hindus. They came to Mahakumbh from almost all states of Bharat and from all walks of lives. It was the responsibility of both Central and State Govts to care for them in every aspect. Dr Togadia further said that the Uttar Pradesh State Govt has advertised Prayag Mahakumbh in every state. Posters are stuck even on buses and hoardings in many towns all over Bharat with the target of tourism revenue. Nothing wrong in it but then there is a responsibility also. Other than being advertised, the Maha Kumbh is a religious right of Hindus. Now there is a stampede, both the Govts are blaming each other and jointly both the Govts says – owing to large crowds the mishap happened. Blaming Hindus for everything has become the easiest way out for everyone now.
RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal, Durga Vahini, Hindu Help Line and many Sadhu-Saints’ systems rushed to help the injured. Administration was not very cooperative and even not allowing the groups to help. Stretchers were limited, medical teams were not on site and there was total chaos. Blame game will go on.
At every such incident, there is chaos and in the aftermath there is a blame game. Instead, we all should come out with concrete solutions and systems to handle such large socio-religious gatherings proactively. RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal, Hindu Help Line, many Sadhu-Saints are used to organizing large gatherings of people coming in from various states and from various social – economic classes. Govts should take help from all such groups rather than ostracizing them terming them ‘Hindu Terrorists’. There are experts in Disaster Management, Crowd Management, Traffic Management, Health services management etc. It is skill and matter of expertise how not to let a large crowd being static at one place for a long time without disturbing the religious activities or without causing commotion. We all have been handling it for long now. Many Para-military agencies have the expertise of a disciplined event management. Millions of people attend many Saints discourses at a time. It is time that Govts heed to the advice and actual help from organizations like ours rather than trying to divide and rule, and fail.”
Here are specific actions that will help manage such large socio-religious gatherings:
Form a National Council for Socio-Religious Events (NCSRE). Members of it should be: Union Minister for Cultural Affairs, Ministers of the same portfolio of all states, senior representative of a State Minister level and the Secretary level each from the Home Ministry at the center and all states, retired senior Army and Police Officers, at least 5 prominent Sadhu-Saints (to be selected without political grudge), representative each from RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal, Durga Vahini, Hindu Help Line and other such organizations – again without any political bias, representative from the media – national and regional to report correctly without adding rumours to avoid further chaos, Telecom / IT dept representative along with the service providers representative to set up the routine and emergency connecting lines. (past 3 days, due to large crowds, the mobile connection networks are jammed resulting into not being able to send help in time.), Fire Services representative, Health and Medical facilities teams with the complete fleet of ambulances and first aid along with the RMOs (Resident Medical Officers) and trained nurses specially deputed for such gatherings, drinking and usage water supply dept representative, garbage disposal management organizations (this has been causing severe infections in such gatherings) and religion-friendly Art and Culture Experts to understand the sensitivity of the gatherings.
There can be added many other representatives as and when needed. Primary responsibilities, check point listing, deliverables, actual visits to the gathering locations, setting up pre-event preparation units at the locations and each state, coordination points with various related Govt departments, allocation of sufficient budgets and non-corrupt transparent dispersing of funds are some of the important tasks the NCSRE (National Council for Socio-Religious Events) should take up.
Obviously, studying the history of many such large gatherings is also an important part of this activity and various universities can depute the teams of students for this interesting and significant work. Depts. of History, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering. During this Kumbh, due to sudden rains, the electricity supply of the total Kumbh campus was cut off for more than an hour and the reason given was fear of short-circuit. However valid the reason, millions of people were suddenly left in the dark at the unknown location on the banks of the rivers in the crowd. Experts may suggest better management of electricity supply. Students of the universities can help study many aspects of such gatherings.
Task allocation in time and making necessary systems available to the task-teams are key areas of making such gatherings hassle free and happy for the devotees. It is not only the matter of disaster management but also preventing the disaster as well as creating congenial smooth atmosphere and systems for millions of people at culturally important places is must. Blaming each other, pre-judging large socio-religious organizations with a bias and deep rooted apathy towards masses will not help the nation in anyways. Condemning such socio-religious gatherings as a national waste has also become a fashion these days among some so called pseudo-secular groups who have great respect to other faith’s gatherings but not for Hindus. Such biased views makes Hindu devotees victims of further negligence by the administrations. Therefore, once and for all, everybody in Bharat should realise that such socio-religious gatherings and the faith behind them is the religious psyche of Bharat and it is the duty of all to facilitate it not only for religious tourism but also as a national duty.
At this moment, however apparent is the discrimination to Hindus vis-à-vis other faith’s gatherings such as Hajj, Carnivals etc, I will not elaborate on it. It is time to set up concrete systems as suggested above and we all are more than willing to work together on this with all Govts and administrations so that Bharat will be an example to the world for the largest socio-cultural gatherings with joy, faith and care without tragedies and loss of human lives.