PURI: With hours to go before the century’s first Nabakalebara Rath Yatra rolls out on Saturday, the holy town of Puri was virtually overtaken by security personnel as the religious event is expected to draw record footfall.
Under a multi-layered security blanket, the administration imposed restriction on entry of vehicular traffic into the town from Friday evening. The Grand Road was sanitised as a whopping 10,000 policemen, drawn from different agencies, were deployed to keep an eye on the nook and cranny of the town.
With unprecedented hype surrounding the festival, the State Police was watchful as the event could be under scanner of terror modules.
“We have factored in every threat perception in our plan of action and strategies have been drawn up to thwart any act of sabotage,” Director General of Police Sanjiv Marik told this paper.
About a month back, intelligence agencies received an unconfirmed report pointing that this year’s Rath Yatra could be the target of Indian Mujahideen which could carry out Bodh Gaya-like attacks. The threat perception was categorised as D.
However, State Police sources said no specific input on terror attacks has been received so far as Rath Yatra is concerned.
Leaving nothing to chance, the State Police has divided the entire Grand Road into 17 sectors and four commandant-ranked officers have been put in charge. An IG-ranked officer has been assigned the charge of the 3-km Bada Danda which plays venue for the Rath Yatra.
Anti-sabotage teams, quick reaction squads, bomb disposal outfits, rescue teams and sniffer dogs have been deployed while the entire town, extending upto Talabania, is under CCTV surveillance. An integrated control room, with 150 monitors, will keep a watch on people through about 200 CCTVs.
“We also have 200-line telephone connectivity to keep ourselves in touch with different sectors of the town,” IG (Operation) and Officer on Special Duty Soumendra Priyadarshi said.
While the watch will continue throughout the night, the Government has also mobilised a string of measures to secure the coastline along which a three-layer security ring has been thrown. Three Dornier aircraft and an Indian Navy vessel with helicopter docking facility have been mobilised. Three Coast Guard vessels are on watch of the coast round the clock while four coastal police stations have been operationalised with three fast interceptor boats at their disposal.
However, a major challenge for the security forces will be crowd control to avert any Pushkar-like stampede.
Priyadarshi said crowd management tops the agenda for the security agencies and elaborate arrangement has been made to ensure that the movement remains normal throughout the day.
The administration would also be watchful of the weather since a heavy downpour can trigger a crisis in the event of a large gathering. The IMD predicted light to moderate rainfall, below 10 mm, at Puri given the moisture, heat and wind conditions. The rains, at best, would be localised, Director of IMD, Odisha SC Sahu said.
With a huge turnout expected on Saturday, the security personnel are also watchful of possible drowning cases in the sea. While constant sensitisation of the tourists, who thronged the beach on Friday, continued, at least 200 men, drawn from expert swimmers of Fire Services Wing and local fishermen, have been put on the job.