VIJAYWADA: Officials tasked with crowd management duties during the upcoming Krishna Pushkarams are implementing lessons learnt from the tragic stampede that marred the first day of the Godavari Pushkarams last year. With some 15 lakh pilgrims expected to come to Vijayawada on the first day of the Krishna Pushkarams on August 12, and given the likelihood of much jostling at the Durga Ghat at the foot of Indrakeeladri, officials are bracing up for a tough time.
The Durga ghat is likely to be the most preferred bathing ghat because it is at the foot of the hill on which the Kanaka Durga temple is located. However, officials are confident that there will be no problem this time round. The old ghats have been extended, new ghats have been built and tented pilgrim accommodation has been dispersed around the city with satellite railway stations and bus stations linked to them. No-vehicle zone have been demarcated and technology is being used to monitor the crowd.
The biggest lesson learnt from the Godavari stampede is that pilgrims must not be allowed to mass at any one bathing ghat. Therefore, the entire stretch from the Kummaripalem Junction, where the Punnami Ghat is located, to the Police Control Room has been made a no-vehicle zone.
That is a nearly 3 km stretch along the river. Due to the pedestrianisation of it, people will take longer to go from the nearest parking zone or nearest bus station to the bathing ghat, which will give the policetime to monitor the rush and prevent any buildup.
In the case of the Durga Ghat, the length of the ghat has been extended to 325 m from 160 m. Further, the number of steps taking pilgrims from the road down to the river has been increased and properly barricaded. With the work on the Kanaka Durga flyover still going on, crowd movement towards Durga Ghat and its vicinity will be restricted and regulated.
As for those going to the Kanaka Durga temple for a darshan, the entry point will be from Kanaka Durga Nagar, with queue lines leading to the Mallikarjuna Maha Mandapam and to the ghat road.
According to officials, since the other ghats -- Padmavati Ghat (1.1 km), Krishnaveni Ghat (750 m), Punnami Ghat (400 m), Bhavani Ghat (700 m) -- are bigger than the Durga ghat and are easily accessible, devotees would be spread out among them and therefore congestion at the Durga ghat is unlikely.
Further, restricting vehicular traffic coming into Vijayawada and redirecting it, setting up satellite bus stations for particular bus routes near a bathing ghat will effectively divert the incoming pilgrims.
"We have the infrastructure in place to ensure that no one is subjected to any inconvenience. We have ensured that at the Sangamam Ghat near Ferry, there is enough place for 2 lakh people to congregate. Similarly, the Punnami ghat can accommodate 70,000 people," Krishna district collector Babu A said.
As many as 1,400 CCTV cameras will be utilised to monitor crowd movement and the monitoring technology will be equipped with analytics software to assess the volume of the crowd. Digital screens will be set up at the railway station and bus stations showing the live footage of the crowd situation at different ghats, so pilgrims can judge for themselves which ghat to go to. Applications have been developed for Android mobiles which can be downloaded from www.krishnapushkaram.ap.gov.in. which can provide information on nearby ghats. Further, 18 drones are to be used to keep watch on the proceedings.