It's not all fun at college fests

Crowd Mismanagement

It is an unfortunate thing to happen to a student. Eighteen-year-old Aarushi Vashisht of Dyal Singh College had come to attend the fest at Ramjas College.

She was caught in a stampede at the Ramjas gate and landed in a hospital with a broken spine and fractured ribs.

Students, however, say that this is not a one-off incident. Crowd mismanagement and resultant mishaps are becoming increasingly frequent at Delhi University (DU) college fests.

All 77 colleges of DU hold their fests at least once a year. Spread over two to three days, the programmes and cash awards are sponsored by various companies. The budget of each fest is known to reach as much as Rs 50 lakh. Also, with popular singers and dancers performing, these fests attract thousands of students.

Vinay Kumar Srivastava, the principal of the Hindu College, says, “There was a time when we would be happy with Pankaj Udhas and Jagjit Singh. Nowadays, students want RDB and Honey Singh. Naturally, these pop and rock singers pull in more outsiders (non-students) than students. Also, over the past three years, the number of students in DU has increased by a whopping 54 per cent due to the new reservations. However, the infrastructure remains the same. So accommodating the numbers during events like fests becomes a problem.”

The Ramjas incident is also known to have taken place because of inadequate space coupled with mismanagement. Initially, there was a pass system, but on the last day of the fest, the entry was made free. With big singers slated to perform, the crowd unexpectedly burgeoned to 35,000.

Added to this, there was only one entry gate, which was suddenly opened when the crowd turned threatening. This is when the stampede happened. The vice-principal of Ramjas College Dr P N Dutta Gupta admits, “We should not have allowed such a huge crowd to enter the college. It is unfortunate that this incident happened.”

However, many students disclose that the problem is not just restricted to logistics. There are additional troubles like students bringing in alcohol or coming to a fest drunk. All colleges employ professional bouncers during fests, but controlling drunk rowdies is difficult.

Then of course is the legendary problem of infighting among students, which erupts especially during fests. A student, who prefers to remain anonymous, says, “Sometimes, these student rivalries are so bad that even teachers can’t control them.”

Girls’ colleges are known to have relatively peaceful fests, but face their own problems. Guys try to force their way in and sometimes stray incidents of eve-teasing are also reported. Miranda College is slated to have its fest later this month.

Their student union president Daisy Jarsanya says, “We take the help of the police. Enough police personnel are deployed in and around the college. Teachers themselves man the gate with walkie–talkies to make sure nothing goes wrong. Besides, tough girl students are stationed at the gates. If a guy acts smart, they know how to handle them.” She says the idea is to provide a fun festive time to all, including male students. With good planning and coordination, it is possible.

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