On August29, pilgrims at the Kumbh Mela came across banners and boards near the ghats in Nashik and Trimbakeshwar carrying an unusual message — No Selfie Zone.
Enforced by the local administration, the ban in select zones and on specific days was the result of a “human behaviour study” conducted by over 100 volunteers who warned officials that selfies could lead to stampedes, particularly during the traditional “Shahi Snan”.
Officials have so far recorded the arrival of 22 lakh pilgrims in Nashik and at least six lakh in Trimbakeshwar ever since the ceremonial flag was hoisted to mark the beginning of the religious congregation on July 14.
The study linking selfies to stampedes was conducted by volunteers linked to Kumbathon-TCS Gappa Goshti platform, an online collaboration to help officials monitor the mela.
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“Since July 13, our volunteers on the field have been collecting data which showed that people stop to take selfies. They also climb to dangerous spots to take selfies,” said Sandip Shinde, CEO of Kumbhathon.
According to Nashik municipal commissioner Dr Pravin Gedam, the curb on selfies in select zones and dates was implemented after a meeting with police officers and local authorities.
The ‘No Selfie Zone’ will be strictly maintained during the days of the “Shahi Snan” on September 13 and 18 in Nashik and September 13 and 25 at Trimbakeshwar, officials said.
“They are applicable only on the days of the holy dip (the first one was on August 29) as we don’t want to take away from the festive mood on other days,” Gedam said.