Bihar Stampede: A half-open exit, lights out and no crowd plan

The maximum deaths were caused on the 30 metre stretch between the gate and Ramgulam Chowk.

Written by Santosh Singh | Patna | Updated: October 5, 2014 12:53 pm
patna Victims relatives at a hospital waiting for her treatment.

A day after the stampede at Patna’s Gandhi Maidan, the toll climbed to 33 on Saturday. Eyewitnesses, meanwhile, pointed to lapses that led to the tragedy. People present at the spot, where 5 lakh people had gathered for Dussehra celebrations, said the “half-open” main gate had a broken and uneven iron ramp, which made many in the crowd trip and fall.

The maximum deaths were caused on the 30 metre stretch between the gate and Ramgulam Chowk. The extent of chaos at the gate — one of four at Gandhi Maidan — can be assessed from the fact that six police jeeps were required to take away the footwear left behind.

The state government has claimed that CCTV footage of the gate does not show “clear evidence of a stampede”. It also said that “people may have died because of asphyxia”. However, an inspection of the ground suggested that standard operating procedures for crowd management were not followed.

The Ramlila Samiti and the Patna district administration, responsible for organising the event, did not anticipate such a huge crowd.

Though Gandhi Maidan has a high mast light and more than 50 other lights, only 20 per cent were working.

There was only one main entrance and exit gate, which was half-open. Vehicles were allowed to be parked outside, clogging the exit. Hawkers around the main gate made matters worse.

A senior police officer said, “As per SOP for crowd management, the situation must be controlled using barricades and a separate exit.
There should be a clear-cut evacuation plan with mandatory instructions to open gates that are shut. All roads leading from the venue to the hospital should be kept clear of heavy vehicles.”

The officer conceded that these procedures were not followed and the police “wasted too much energy in ensuring the smooth exit of VVIPs”. In fact, one of the main gates was open only for VIPs.

Hareram Sao, a Gardaninagh resident, said, “It happened between 6.45 pm and 7.15 pm. The CM had just left and we were waiting to leave. The half-open gate didn’t allow so many people to get out at once and the broken foot-ramp made people trip.”

Mohammed Mumtaz, another witness, said that a cable hanging at the gate made some people think it was a live electricity wire.

Mohammed Niyad, a witness who said he took six of the injured to Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH), said, “Police made matters worse by starting lathi charge towards the end. Who will take criminal responsibility for 33 deaths?”

At PMCH, there was chaos all around. Union minister Ramvilas Paswan said, “This isn’t a stampede, it’s murder.”

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  1. V
    Oct 5, 2014 at 7:52 am
    Any group activity, why does it turn out into a stampede, why are people always in a hurry to get out? This is not the first time that such incidents occurred in India. Either one can keep blaming the officials for improper infrastructure or can be a little patient and come out in a queue. Its high time we inculcate the queue culture into Indian society.
    1. C
      Oct 5, 2014 at 2:32 pm
      As a nation of 1.2 billion people and with less civic sense we are bound to gather more in numbers at any given time in many functions including religious, meetings etc. We have a very poor plan of emergency exit system even after so many incidents and loss of valuable lives. At least now onwards the law enforcement/fire guys should be given proper training in this aspect and they should ask the organizers about this plan and give suggestions/advice to improve on that future losses can be minimized. Jaihind
      1. B
        Oct 5, 2014 at 7:54 am
        Youth of Bihar should use the electronic and media to expose the corruption and mismanagement in such events. Bring Bihar at world level by Bihari Sharp Minds and not just in JNU or DU elections or do Labour work in Punjab and Himanchal and Haryana. I want Bihar and UP at the top of the world. Throw away discrimination of back word Caste, women. economically backword.