To avoid last year’s stampede-like situation during Durga Puja, organisers of Deshapriya Park puja committee are taking extra precautions this year to ensure smooth flow of visitors while not disturbing traffic movement.
Sudipto Kumar, secretary of the organising committee of Deshapriya Park Durgotsav, said preparations of crowd management had begun three months ago. “We had been preparing ourselves since the past three months and after a meeting with Kolkata Police, our arrangements have taken a final shape. Our puja had to be shut down on ‘Panchami’ last year when our pandal had 12-15 lakh visitors. This year, we are anticipating a rise in visitors by at least 10 per cent,” Sudipto, who is also the brother of local councillor and MMIC Debashish Kumar, told The Indian Express.
The organisers have engaged 120 volunteers for streamlining the vehicular and crowd movement in the area. As many as 30 volunteers will be trained for six days by the Kolkata Police, starting from September 30, a day after Mahalaya. “The training will be on crowd management and how to handle it efficiently. We will also install CCTV cameras, set up a medical camp and have a fire engine on standby,” said the organising secretary.
A team of Kolkata Police officials led by Supratim Sarkar, Joint Commissioner of Police (headquarters), visited the venue on Wednesday. “This supervision is for all big pujas, not just this one. We are looking into the arrangements regarding traffic and crowd circulation,” Sarkar said.
The pandal, which is located in a traffic-heavy area, will have separate barricades for entry and exit “to maintain a smooth flow of visitors without disturbing traffic movement”, Sudipto said.
“There will be a channel from Rash Behari Avenue and Gariahat, one from Southern Avenue and another from Hazra crossing. There will be one main gate for entry and two separate gates for exit – one towards Tilak Road and the other towards Motilal Nehru Road. However, for emergencies, provision for a single entry-exit gate has also been made,” the puja secretary said, adding that there will be a separate entry for members and VIPs. Sources said that during the festival, there will be no entry for vehicles and pedestrians on Motilal Nehru Road and Tilak Road, and it will only allow those passing through the barricaded lane to the pandal.
Last year, the organisers had built an 88-feet Durga idol and had gone for nationwide promotion which led to a surge of visitors. On October 18, over a million visitors thronged the pandal leading to a stampede-like situation and causing the Kolkata Police to intervene and shut it down.
This year too, the organisers are claiming to have built a 40-feet Asura and a Durga idol having 1,000 hands.