Last week, 24 people died in an unfortunate incident at the Rajghat bridge over the Ganga, in Varanasi. The cause of deaths was a painfully common one- stampede and crushing at an overcrowded venue. A rumor that the bridge was collapsing as a large procession moved across it, reportedly led to the stampede. This week's chart examines stampede incidents that have happened in India over the last 10 years.
The statistics are both sobering and frustrating. There have been 4 incidents in the last 10 years with over 100 deaths! It makes you wonder why these incidents keep repeating themselves and whether the organizers and law enforcements officials are ever held accountable. Another fact that is obvious when you look at the chart is that most incidents take place at religious gatherings. Although Uttar Pradesh has had it worst, these incidents have happened all across the country.
It is important to examine the causes of stampedes and more precisely 'crushes' before proposing and implementing solutions. Deaths usually occur due to asphyxiation. Often the most vulnerable parts of the population- children and the elderly- end up being a majority of the victims. The word stampede suggests herd behavior and selfish crowds but often this is not the case. According to experts, in densely packed crowds, individuals are pressed so closely against each other they are unable to move as individuals, and shockwaves can travel through a crowd which, at large densities, behaves somewhat like a fluid. If a single person falls, or other people reach down to help, waves of bodies can be involuntarily precipitated forward into the open space. One such shockwave can create other openings in the crowd nearby, precipitating further crushing. Individuals are directly crushed by others nearby who have no choice, and those who can choose are too distant from the epicenter to be aware of what is happening.
Simple crowd control methods should be adopted to avoid such tragedies. Law enforcement officials turning away people over the safe limit, barricades and ample exits at venues, people on raised platforms using loudspeakers to direct crowds are all simple yet effective solutions. But it has to start with public officials realizing the gravity of the situation. One trampled child is one too many.