Utter chaos prevailed around the Wankhede stadium, as thousands of people thronged the venue to watch master blaster Sachin Tendulkar resume his innings on the second day of the Test match yesterday. Roads in the area were backed up with vehicular traffic leading up to the game, and even well into the first few hours of the match, as a sea of people made their way to the stadium.
As the crowds converged at the stadium between 7 and 10 am, the roads and footpaths were chock-a-block, with crowds spilling onto the roads, disrupting traffic movement. Adding to the mess was also the influx of top politicians, including Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi and a host of Bollywood celebrities, who arrived at the venue with their entourages.
Anticipating the huge crowd, the traffic department had imposed a number of restrictions to ensure smooth movement of traffic, also issuing a traffic advisory requesting people to avoid bringing their vehicles due to the lack of parking space. But, all their efforts went for a six with a majority of the 20,000-odd spectators driving down to the venue.
Nearly 400 traffic cops were deployed at the stadium and surrounding areas. “At least 23,000 people arrived at the stadium before 10 am. However, we managed to control the crowd. One lane was occupied by the media vans only,” said Vivek Phansalkar, Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic).
While the transport chief crowed about the successful management, traffic cops present outside the venue had a different story to tell. A traffic cop said the lack of support from the organisers made it difficult to handle the crowds.
Another cop said that there were no volunteers provided by the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) and the total manpower seemed ineffective. “We expected some cooperation, at least while monitoring and directing such a huge crowd. But it was nothing but a struggle,” said a traffic official present outside the stadium. The traffic police had earlier asked the organisers to ensure the gymkhana grounds to be converted as temporary parking lots, but they had not reverted.
Lack of planning
The low number of traffic foot soldiers, lack of equipment coupled with poor planning added to the confusion. Officials said electronic signboards that displayed the walking path crowds could take, and parking area directions were unavailable. “We have dearth of funds. Where should we get all these?” questioned a traffic official.
Taxis stay away
Meanwhile, the taxi unions said that many drivers avoided fares to south Mumbai due to the chaos and presence of VVIPs. “A good 40 per cent of the taxi fleet didn’t ply around south Mumbai during the morning hours when people started arriving at the stadium,” said AL Quadros, Mumbai Taximen’s Union.
MCA refuted all claims made by the government authorities. Nitin Dalal, joint secretary, MCA, said, “Manning the crowd and vehicles is a part of the police personnel’s job. Moreover, we had placed volunteers outside the stadium since 6 am. All the claims made by them are wrong”. But Dalal didn’t disclose the number of volunteers present outside the stadium to handle the crowd.