New Delhi: To ensure an incident like the deadly stampede at Naina Devi earlier this week doesn’t happen again, the government of Himachal Pradesh plans to form a committee and implement a system of crowd control similar to the hilltop Vaishno Devi temple in Jammu.
On Sunday , about 25,000 pilgrims had gathered at Naina Devi when rumors of a landslide and rolling rocks sparked panic among devotees and a mad rush that left 147 dead. Himachal Pradesh chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said he will implement the Vaishno Devi model where all devotees are registered before being allowed to proceed in batches of 200.” A committee is being formed in a meeting as we speak,” said Kusum Sood, an official in the chief minister’s office.” It will be formed by tomorrow (6 August) and put its recommendations on how to do this to the minister soon.”
At Vaishno Devi, about 750,000 pilgrims trek through the Himalayan Mountains each year to visit the idol that is located inside a cave large enough to accommodate only a hundred devotees at once. This past June, about 110,000 people visited the temple—an ”all time high,” according to Indian Administrative Officer (IAS) Manoj Kumar Trivedi, who is the current in-charge of the temple. He explained that this temple faces greater challenges, because, in addition to being prone to landslides, the shrine is located in Jammu, a state prone to terrorist attacks.
Observers say two things went wrong at Nainadevi: lack of crowd control and lack of medical facilities. So after the stampede, it took medical help four hours to arrive and many of the injured died waiting for it. Similarly located, Vaishnodevi also does not have a hospital, but it does have three day and night dispensaries, one intensive care unit and a stock of oxygen tanks for emergency situations. Sood says that the new committee is bound to focus on this issue.