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The Week That Was:

From: Vartaa Editorial Team on Oct 16, 2016

BRICS summit in Goa

India hosts the BRICS summit in Goa this week and leaders of these countries started arriving in this weekend. PM Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin met on the sidelines of the summit and the two countries agreed to ink a pact for a Joint Venture in India for manufacturing helicopters and for India to buy surface to air missiles from Russia. Also in the works is an energy deal by which India's Essar Oil will be acquired by Russia's largest energy company Rosneft.

Chess pieces move in poll bound states

2017 is a crucial election year for both the NDA government and the opposition parties and neither is leaving any stone unturned to outmanoeuvre the other. In Gujarat, which has been a BJP stronghold for 15 years, the AAP is now courting the disgruntled Patidar community and its new leader Hardik Patel. The BJP meanwhile has decided against curtailing the wild rhetoric of Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar on the surgical strikes believing that the party has a lot to gain by showing a tough posture against Pakistan. In UP though, family feuds have roiled the ruling Samajwadi Party and rumours are now floating in Lucknow that CM Akhilesh Yadav might eventually decide to break away from the mother ship. That might be a bridge too far for even Akhilesh but the internecine war within the SP hardly bodes well for their prospects in next February's polls.

India sweeps NZ, regains #1 Test ranking

The Indian cricket team continued its good form this season and completed a resounding 3-0 sweep over New Zealand with a thumping win in the final test at Indore. The win took India to the top of the ICC test rankings and also R.Ashwin, the chief architect of this victory, at the top of the list of the test bowlers. In a series that features a test against spin, the Kiwi batsmen's lack of footwork and uncertainty against the turning ball contributed to their downfall. NZ are now hoping for a change in fortunes in the ODI series that begins this Sunday.

Opinions you must read:

  • The Mint presents a case as to why India must leave Pakistan's MFN status for trade intact.
  • This past week Aradhana Samadariya, a 13 year old Jain girl, died of heart attack after having kept a 68 day fast. The practice of making children fast as well as using them for religious purposes has come under the scanner after the incident. The Hindu presents a scathing argument in support.
  • Is the Indian software industry missing the next best change in the product development wave?

Chart of the Week

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.