IIM profs suggest crowd safety norms

Two professors from the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad have come up with some guidelines for the National Disaster Management Authority on crowd safety and crowd management.

In a position paper on “Crowd Management at Places of Mass Gatherings” submitted last month and released recently, the professors - Chetan Soman and Sachin Jayaswal - suggest that the organisers of mass gatherings should be made responsible for crowd safety and they should  not hesitate to refuse entry to VIPs to crowded places.

The position paper has also come up with a number of other suggestions. It says that there are many provisions in the existing acts and rules for effective crowd management. However, enforcement and implementation are the key challenges faced by government administrators and law enforcement agencies.

The guidelines have been publicised against the backdrop of the stampede at the Ratangarh temple in Madhya Pradesh on Sunday last in which at least 115 people were killed.

"At a number of religious places of mass gathering located atop hills, it is frightening for pilgrims to do their religious journey along with the speeding ponies in both the directions.

Shrine boards should explore and expedite the possibilities of alternate track for pilgrims on ponies and horses. Until this gets completed, arrangements should be made to deal with the route cleaning issue and a staff associated with it," it said.

The paper suggests that there should be plans to take care of VIP visitors at places where there is a possibility of a crowd gathering. "Do not hesitate to refuse entry to VIPs if assessment indicates that it will add to safety concerns," it says.

In addition, it wants the primary responsibility of crowd safety and management to be with the event managing body. "This will ensure that they make appropriate arrangements; and develop and execute proactive and holistic disaster management plans. A debate is warranted whether to have legal provisions to hold them responsible and liable for human disasters during the event at the venue," it said.

The paper also suggests that generators, distribution boxes and circuit breakers should be kept in isolated places away from mischievous elements and there should be adequate fencing and security. Medical preparedness is one of the weakest links in crowd disaster management and special attention should be given to it, the paper adds.

Consideration of available transport facilities, parking and traffic flow are very important in event site selection, crowd control, and in emergency evacuation. The guiding principles in transportation and traffic management are to use public transport as much as possible, to minimise the impact of undesirable crowd and traffic, the study says.

The paper says that a mere glance through the list of causes of crowd disasters suggests that most of them are man-made, which can be completely prevented with proactive and holistic planning and flawless execution.

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