(Clockwise from above left) Workers carry a portion of Kumbhkaran's effigy into Gandhi Maidan for Tuesday's Ravan Vadh, labourers make final preparations for the show and divisional commissioner Anand Kishor at the ground on Monday. Pictures by Deepak Kumar
Patna, Oct. 10: The ghost of the Dussehra 2014 stampede continues to haunt Patna's senior officials but they have channelled the fear into making better preparations.
Senior police officers, including the director-general of police (DGP), briefed the magistrates and police constables on the groundabout tomorrow's Ravan Vadh, instructing them on how to swiftly deal with any emergency situations.
The stampede at Gandhi Maidan on October 3, 2014, had claimed 33 lives. Amir Subhani, then principal secretary, home, who was part of the committee tasked to look into the reasons for the stampede, had later said: "There was an unattended cable wire near the maidan's southern gate leading towards Ramgoolam Chowk. People panicked, leading to the stampede, as a rumour spread that it was a live wire. The cattle trap in front of the gate was in a bad shape, too, for which the people tripped and fell."
A lot of corrective measures have been taken since then, but still the administration is in no mood to take chances.
" 2014 ka vakhya aap logon ko yaad hoga, bahut logon ne sabak sikh liya hoga (All of you must remember the 2014 incident and many must have learnt their lessons too)," said DGP P.K. Thakur addressing the meeting at Gandhi Maidan today.
Present at the pre-Dussehra meeting was divisional commissioner Anand Kishor, district magistrate Sanjay Kumar Agarwal, Patna zonal inspector-general Nayyar Hasnain Khan, deputy inspector-general of police (central range) Shalin, senior superintendent of police (SSP) Manu Maharaaj, superintendent of police (central) Chandan Kushwaha and traffic superintendent of police P.K. Das. Chief minister Nitish Kumar and Speaker Vijay Kumar Choudhary will be among the dignitaries at the function.
Thakur stressed to the deputy magistrates and police on responding to emergencies such as taking injured to ambulances and making safe way for vehicles to the hospital in case of any crisis situation.
He categorically asked the officials not to leave their posts till the show was over at Gandhi Maidan.
"I hope all arrangements have been made at the ground and extra force deputed. In case of emergencies, respond quickly and do not leave your post," he said.
Ravan Vadh has been the mainstay of Dussehra celebrations at Gandhi Maidan for the past 60 years.
Maharaaj, who was Patna SSP at the time of the 2014 tragedy, told the officials present: "What is most important is to clear the crowd after the Ravan Vadh function is over. Take it as a challenge. There are chances of rumours but use your presence of mind at the time of any chaos. My past experience has proved that people can even plant a bomb in an envelope... do not allow people to come near the railings. In case you spot any suspicious object, do not announce anything on the public address system, inform the bomb squad team. At any cost, do not leave your post."
Kishor warned that any official found missing from the venue before every person has dispersed from Gandhi Maidan would face disciplinary action.
"In the past we have experienced that once a VIP leaves the venue, half the magistrates and officials leave as well. But this will not happen this year," Kishor stressed. "Disciplinary action will be taken against all those officials who are found missing before the last person leaves the ground. It is the duty of the city SP and additional district magistrate (law and order) to check their presence and submit a report."
Bihar police's bomb squad team also conducted an anti-sabotage drill at Gandhi Maidan. Residents will be allowed to enter Gandhi Maidan after 1pm on Tuesday. Door-frame metal detectors have been placed at all the 13 gates of the ground.
Magistrates deputed at every gate of the maidan have been provided with a public address system. Ambulances have been stationed at eight gates already for emergency situations.