For the first time on the all-important final day of Ganpati immersions at Girgaum Chowpatty, the Mumbai Police had eyes in the sky. The use of drone cameras for civilian use is restricted. However, the police used two drones over a stretch of 3.5 kilometers on Thursday to aid its largest deployment of the year.
One light and one heavy-weight drones were deployed and both were controlled by a senior official from the police chowky on the beach. CCTV cameras also covered the entire shore. “The drones added an unique element to the security measures this year. We could see what spots were congested by vehicular and human movement, and accordingly, sent men there to ease out the crowd,” said a police officer.
One drone flew between Opera House and SVP Road and the other did sorties along the Chowpatty shoreline. Flying at a height of 35 metres, each drone completed a sortie along its designated route in roughly 20 minutes. The drones helped police anticipate the volume of incoming traffic as inputs continued to pour in through walkie-talkie sets. This was in addition to continuous aerial sorties conducted by the Coast Guard and the Indian Navy.
“We could cover the whole area of immersion and procession through the drones. We mostly used the light drone as the heavy one had problems taking off in the rains,” said Pratap Dighavkar, Additional Commissioner of Police, South Region.
The police credit the incident-free bandobast this year to a number of small but significant changes made in traffic management. For starters, only vehicles carrying idols were allowed to enter the Chowpatty and others bearing devotees and generator vans were allowed no further than Kennedy Bridge. Parking along both carriageways of Marine Drive was also prohibited.
The officer added that the drones made it easy to control the traffic at the immersion spot. “The drones helped us understand the crowd movement and identify spots where a stampede could take place and avoid accidents. The drones also helped locate gaps between processions for the household and sarvajanik mandal idols, which was crucial,” said Dighavkar.