1. Mock Questions for UPSC Mains
  2. Introduction: Stampede disasters
  3. Body#1: Causes / triggers for stampedes
  4. Body#2: Disaster Preparedness: Before Stampede
  5. Body#3: Disaster Management: After Stampede
  6. (GSM3) Role of Science Technology in Stampede Prevention
  7. (GSM3) Role of Media in man-made disasters
  8. (GSM4) Ethical code for Media during disasters
  9. (GSM2) Legal Provisions against stampede
  10. Conclusion: Stampede prevention (भगदड़ की रोकथाम)

Mock Questions for UPSC Mains

Answer following questions in 200 words each, in blank A4 sized papers with 1″ margins on each side:

  1. (GSM3) Suggest measures for preparedness against human stampedes at public places and public events. (मानव भगदड़)
  2. (GSM3) Why do stampedes occur? Enumerate the application of science and technology in disaster response, recovery and mitigation of such manmade disasters.
  3. (GSM3) Discuss the role of media in the prediction, protection and preparedness for manmade disasters. (मानव निर्मित आपदाओं में मीडिया की भूमिका)
  4. (GSM4) Prescribe a code of ethics for the journalists during disasters and terrorist attacks.
  5. (Essay) India’s preparedness against man-made disasters. (Answer in 1000-1200 words)

Introduction: Stampede disasters

There are three ways to begin the answer:

  1. Define: Difficult to define human stampede (मानव भगदड़) in one or two lines. Besides you’ll have to mention those factors / triggers again in the body of the answers- so unnecessarily it’ll lead to repetition of phrases and sentences. Therefore, better to start with “origin”.
  2. Origin: From religious shrines to railway stations- frequent incidents of human stampedes are an unfortunate reality of Indian life. The latest entry in the list of such tragedies is Elphinstone railway bridge in Mumbai, which claimed the lives of over 20 people in 2017. [Atleast this much current affairs you should follow: >20 had died.]
  3. Data: In last decade over __ people have lost lives in the stampedes, including the latest tragedy that occurred at Mumbai’s Elphinstone railway bridge. [but you can’t memorize decadal causality numbers for each disaster in the real exam. So “data” is a difficult way to begin this answer.]
  • Observe that I’ve given “origin” in verbose and flowery manner. Because, disaster management for human stampede is not a ‘big’ topic unlike earthquake and urban floods where you can fillup many pages. so to reach 200 words marks, you may have to do padding like this.
  • Yes, this article has more than sufficient points to even handle an essay or GTO Tasks/GDPI for SSB/CDS interviews, but UPSC could ask any random disaster, so “padding the introduction” is a skill you should also cultivate.

Body#1: Causes / triggers for stampedes

  • Human stampedes result from the forces generated by panicked persons pushing each other in a large crowd.
  • Since their movement is uncoordinated, they get injured or fall off each other, and become obstacles to the movement of others.
  • Fallen person dies by intense compression of lungs and subsequent suffocation. [Medical term is “Traumatic asphyxia” but we are writing answer for GS paper not optional subject paper. so no need to memorize.]

NDMA identified following triggers/ factors leading to stampedes

  1. Structural: collapse of the temporary structure, steep stairs, narrow exists because of illegal constructions, parking and hawkers etc.
  2. Fire / electric: usually from the makeshift kitchens in the ‘pandal’, inappropriate use of firecrackers / electrical wiring during the event.
  3. Human: Underestimating the size of crowd, overselling of the tickets; lack of coordination with authorities, panicking by rumors, rush to get freebie / celebrity autograph etc.

Disaster Preparedness: Before Stampede

Planning & coordination

  • Following Factors must be considered while planning for large events:
  • 1) Type and duration of event.
  • 2) Size of the expected crowd, gender and age profile of attendees.
  • 3) Location characteristics.
  • Accordingly, the event organizers do planning, rehearsal and safety drills with the help of police, fire, health, forest, revenue, PwD departments.
  • For example: in religious events, depending on the estimated crowd size- extend the duration of the ‘melaa’ or ‘darshan’ for more days to avoid a larger gathering.

Volunteers, Paramedics & Security personnel

  • Uniform dresses and id cards for volunteers.
  • Give them training on crowd management, how to frisk visitors, how to operate metal detectors, how identify trouble makers and suicide bombers.
  • Order them to frisk bidi, cigar, matchstick etc. to avoid any fire disaster.
  • Paramedics should train the event volunteers in how to give first aid treatment including CPR resuscitation, how to transport the injured persons etc.
  • There should be disaster protocol and standard operating procedure for all nearby by hospitals.

CPR full form is cardio-pulmonary resuscitation but since we are not writing answer for medical science optional, you may ignore to remember this full form.

Control Room

  • Central control room equipped with CCTVs to monitor and spot crowd buildup areas.
  • Mike & public address system to make important announcements.
  • Temporary observation towers may be eracted, if required.
  • In UAV / Drones could be used for monitoring the crowd movement & risk assessment- for mega events such 15th August or 26th January parade.
  • Don’t rely on mobile phones as large gathering might create network problems. Better to use dedicated walkie-talkie system for communication between personnel.

Prevent Traffic Congestion

  • Traffic congestion hampers retaliation, rescue and relief operations during stampede / terror attacks.
  • Coordinate with rail and bus operators so they don’t unilaterally arrange vehicles for other routes. Else, many people may come in private vehicles.
  • Charge high parking fee to discourage private vehicles.
  • Provide shuttle bus service between venue and the nearest railway / bus stop to ensure less rickshaws and taxis crowding the venue.
  • Strict enforcement of traffic and parking rules even for VIPs.

Entry Tickets & Display boards

  • Provide seat numbers and entry passes. Don’t give general admission- otherwise difficult to control movement of people
  • Assign parking and seating arrangements with color coded pathsways.
  • Because “mad rush and casual attitude” is the Indian way of life. People don’t read the text instructions like “Exit from Nanaji gate via Deendayal pathway.” They’ll keep asking volunteers where to go?
  • but if ticket / signboard /public announcement says “follow green path for entry and red path for exit” then it facilitates easier and effective communication- even for the illiterates.
  • Accordingly, design sign-boards / display boards in multiple languages to disseminate information about entry & exit routes, food, water & rest room facilities, helpdesk location for lost & found items and children.

Pathways & Hawkers

  • Prohibit hawkers and sellers in corridors and pathways.
  • Hawkers must not be allowed to use stoves or sell cigarettes / matchsticks / loud whistles / scary masks / fire crackers and other dangerous items which can be misused by unruly youth to scare people. If it’s a ‘melaa (fair)’ such shops should be at ‘exit’ rather than at entry points.
  • If the shrine is atop hill/mountain, there should be separate track for pedestrians and separate track for ponies and horses. (else someone could light a firecracker to startle the horses and cause stampede)
  • Adequate facilities for light, ventilation, drinking water and toilets- along the pathways.

Entry-Exit, Barricades & Puctuality

  • Doors must not be suddenly opened or suddenly closed.
  • Provide multiple exits. Routes of ingress and egress must be separate. Otherwise incoming and outgoing visitors /vehicle will collide during panic / rush.
  • Entry and exit points must have strong but non-permanent barricades. (so that during rush, you can remove those barricades.) Such barricades must not have strong metal spikes, else it may cause more injuries during stampede.
  • Strict adherence to time and punctuality. Because delay causes anger and restlessness in the crowd. Sudden entry of train / celebrity triggers rush. [therefore multiple entry-exits and non-permanent barriers help.]

Freebies and Autographs

  • If there is any ‘free distribution’ of gift, toy, saree, blanket, food, prasad, alms etc. there must be multiple distribution points. Volunteers should ensure that all devotees don’t concentrate at a single distribution point.
  • Such free gifts must not be thrown randomly at the crowd like SRK did @Vadodara rail station during promotion of his flop movie ‘Raees’.
  • Celebrity should not be allowed to mingle with the crowd because 1) his personal security may get compromised 2) it’ll trigger rush among the people to push each other for his glimpse / autograph. (e.g. again SRK ‘induced’ stampade @Vadodara Rail station during promotion of his flop movie ‘Raees’.)
  • Don’t allow more people than the weight bearing capacity of podium / lifts / temporary stairs. Sometimes, large no. of people climb on podium to have group photo with the celebrity or politician- resulting into collapse of the structure. Give strict instruction to the security personnel to forbid such entry.

Electricity and Fire hazards

  • Kitchen and cooking facilities should be away from the main event.
  • Proper care in handling the LPG stoves, firewood and electric fitting. Only qualified and registered catering personnel should handle these.
  • Circuit breakers, fuse boxes, switchboards, fuel tanks must be kept in isolated location with security guard, lest some unruly youth play with it. E.g. shutting down all lights during a night-concert may also trigger panic and stampede.
  • Electrical wires should be underground or overhead and always away from the walking paths- to minimize tripping hazards.
  • Forbid smoking, because 1) It can cause fire; 2) suffocation and discomfort may prompt others to push each other.
  • Ensure fire extinguishers, fire hydrants, sand buckets, water tanks and first aid kits are available throughout the venue.
  • Forbid visitors from throwing food waste, lest it attract dogs, monkeys and elephants – their violent behavior can cause crowd panic.

Disaster Management: After Stampede

  • Event volunteers and paramedics must commence rapid first aid treatment.
  • Distribe patients to area hospitals in a coordinated manner, so that relatives can easily find them.
  • A control room and helpdesk to handle all the inquiries.
  • Police personnel and relief workers should ensure proper storage and tagging of the mobiles, purses, footwear and other belongings of the victims.
  • Psycho-social support and mental health services for the survivors, and the persons who lost their loved ones.

(GSM3) Role of Science Technology in Stampede Prevention

Disaster Management: human Stampede

S&T, ICT: Before disaster

  • Aadhar linked Barcoded passes should be given, and verified at entry points, to check whether person actually arrived or not. So, in case of stampede or railway accident – insurance claim / relief money can be distributed with less hassles. [Vaishnodevi and Sabarimala shrines already have e-registration]
  • In the long run, if aadhar is also linked with crime database, we can prevent entry of under-investigation / accused / convicted persons with a history of inciting violence or playing mischief at public places.
  • Such e-registration will also give us an idea of gender, and age composition of the crowd and make advance facilities for wheelchairs and adequate number of restrooms etc. accordingly.
  • Special apps could be crated for digital entry pass and GPS instructions for parking and entry / exit points.
  • RFID / App based visitor passes- this will help monitoring the crowd buildup with real time geo-location, and take preventive measures accordingly.
  • If RFID / App not possible, we can install sensors to monitor heat, smoke and noise levels at various points- that too can help estimating the crowd buildup and take preventive measures.
  • CCTV / UAV / Drones / GIS for monitoring of the crowd.
  • Above data will also be useful in big-data analytics with crowd simulation at later time. This will help in better management of future events.
  • SMS, Social media, prerecorded voice mails to make important announcements (before the event and after the stampede).

S&T, ICT: During / after disaster

  • Dedicated website / social media account / toll-free IVRS number to disseminate authentic information and to prevent rumor mongering.
  • RFID / Barcodes and photographs of unidentified dead bodies and luggage. All of these should be displayed on a dedicated web portal so, relatives can find them without having to run from pillar to post in every hospital and morgue.
  • Logistics: material, medicine, blood donors, inventory management and personnel management- all can be managed efficiently using ERP softwares.

(GSM3) Role of Media in man-made disasters

As such I’ve written this for stampede, but you should be intelligent enough to replicate these points on other events as well e.g. terrorist attack at public place or RIOTING after conviction of a religious guru.

Role Before Stampede:

  1. Educational: inform juntaa about venue timing, traffic routes. don’t just cover event / celebrity appearance / speeches, journalist should also educate public about “dos and don’ts” to avoid stampedes, terror attacks and pickpocketing. and most importantly, youth must be informed not to take selfies but help victims.
  2. Critical: evaluate and highlight any gaps in the disaster preparedness before the event. If media had kept highlighting the nuisance of hawkers & congestion at railway bridges (instead of tracking Honeypreet’s whereabouts), then railway police could have been pressurized to take some preventive measures across all the railway stations and bridges, including Elphinstone bridge.

Role during / after stampede

  1. Investigative: Find the cause of disaster, Report the activities of anti-social elements and politicians who’re obstructing the rescue and relief operation e.g. AAP MLA Alka Lamba’s photo-op on fire brigade vehicle.
  2. Informative: Help people locate their missing relatives and loved ones. Prevent the spread of misleading rumors and distorted facts.
  3. (Again) Critical:
  4. Highlight the needs of survivors and family members to ensure that authorities act with full sincerity and empathy during rehabilitation.
  5. Organize debates and expert opinions to keep public pressure on authorities- to ensure they to initiate preventive measures against future disasters.
  6. Mobilize: Funds, relief material, blood donors and volunteers.

(GSM4) Ethical code for Media during disasters

  1. Investigative journalists should resist temptation for quick-bytes and half-baked truths to deliver ‘breaking news’. They should publish news / put blame on a person or organization only after verifying the facts from authentic sources.
  2. For example, after Elphinstone stampede, leading news websites showed a clip of a ‘man molesting a dying women in the railway bridge’, however from the different camera angle, it was seen that the person was actually trying to help. Later on, all newspapers had to retract that molestation story and apologize. Nonetheless, such “breaking news” harms India’s image among foreign tourists who may not see the retracted news later on.
  3. Photojournalists and cameramen should avoid voyeurism, brandishing of the personal grief, or publishing extremely gory and disturbing photographs.
  4. They should respect the privacy of the women and innocence of the children (unlike our kids reality shows.)
  5. In some cases, shocking photos / videos need to be published to highlight the wrongdoings and bring people out of their lethargic attitude. A journalist should use his inner conscience for this decision.
  6. Journalist must weigh the pros and cons of covering a story or acting as a ‘volunteer’. There have been instances of freelance reporters shooting video of the dying / drowning person instead of saving him.

Unlikely question but GSM2 is known for its अतरंगी (crazy) questions.

Disaster management act 2005 mandates that:

  1. Authorities can restrict human and vehicular traffic in vulnerable area.
  2. Local authorities must ensure safety-standards in all the construction projects in their area. [After all, stampedes can occur in malls and theatres also, and if they don’t have mechanisms for wide doors, fire exit etc.]
  3. Public officials / private companies neglecting their duties regarding safety standards= punishable.
  4. Person making false claims for insurance / relief = punishable.

Police Act 1861 & state specific city police acts:

  • Police given powers to regulate public assemblies, and processions. Organizers have to obtain license.
  • Police / fire officials can remove obstructing persons / structures during disasters.
  • Penalty on organizers and participants, if any bonfires, animal stampede, celebratory firing etc.

State specific Mela Act / Cinema Act

  • Organizers have to obtain license from District Magistrate.
  • DM given power to specify safety standards- including the entry, exhibition and sale of animals.

Shortcomings in the existing legal structure

  • Existing laws provide only penalty for neglect / mischief. but no specific mechanism or comprehensive and uniform guidelines for compensation.
  • So, victims have to depend on government’s mercy OR approach civil courts but it’s very time consuming process, as seen in the Uphaar Cinema tragedy case of Delhi.
  • There must a law requiring all such events, places and shrines to compulsorily purchase “liability insurance for visitors”- covering the loss of life & belongings, injury & hospitalization. (Similar to Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010.)
  • If railway and bus stations are also required to buy such insurance, it’ll reduce their profitability. But they can hike the entry fees. This will automatically reduce the crowd build up. (i.e. only the travelers will come, and 50 relatives will not come to ‘see him off’ to enjoy free wifi.)

Conclusion: Stampede prevention (भगदड़ की रोकथाम)

  • Natural and man-made disasters occur through omission and commission of the society and the administration.
  • Therefore, any disaster can be prevented or at least its impact can be minimized by the coordinated actions of all the stakeholders (and depending on question, you can write, “including media” or “and with the help of science technology”).