Over a thousand men and women, many with babies, lined up to register for their Aadhar card outside Gandhigram school, Juhu, on Monday. Things got out of hand around 3 pm when the registration formalities were abruptly halted by the Aadhar authorities.
What was subsequently witnessed by MiD DAY could only be described as total mayhem. There would have been a stampede if not for the police who resorted to lathicharge to quell the frenzy. Hiten Patel, who was there to get an Aadhar card, said, “When I came here at 6 am, there was already a kilometre-long line stretching from ISKCON temple till the beach. There was total chaos right from the beginning, as people started breaking the queue, which was only inching ahead when the gates opened at around 9 am.”
Rita D’souza, another person who was there to have her card made, sustained scratches and abrasions all over her hands and back, said, “This was one of the worst experiences of my life.” “People like me have been waiting for over 10 hours, without a morsel of food or even a drop of water, as moving out even to use the bathroom would mean losing your position in the queue. I was nearing the registration counter, when all hell broke loose,” said Neeta Pinto, who was seen flushed and dazed, after a day in the hot sun.
Vinayak Nagaonkar, media spokesperson Aadhar (Western region) said that he was surprised to see the number of people who showed on Monday. “We have been informing the people that the current exercise of registration is only for the benefit of LPG gas cylinder holders and scholarship beneficiaries. The rest of the people can come for enrollment at any convenient time, till 2013. I am currently out of Mumbai, but we shall look in to the matter at the earliest.”
Police Inspector Kalpana Gadekar, who rushed to the scene with a van full of police personnel after getting the distress call from the school, said her topmost priority was to safeguard women and children. “We immediately separated the crowd into two groups according to gender. It was a daunting task for the force to control the mob, but the situation was successfully brought under control. It is surprising that so many people showed up for their Aadhar card on a single day. The registration has been going on for a while now and the authorities were not equipped to handling a mob situation,” said Gadekar.
Aadhar card registration requires better management. I waited the entire day and in the end was given a token number and instruction to come again next month.
- Vinita Menon
I have left my family and chores to be in the line since 4 am. It’s been over 11 hours.
- Neeta Pinto
There was an elderly lady, who fell flat on the concrete due to the stampede. She was lucky to have escaped with minor injuries, but had to be taken for a medical examination.
- Sweety Andrew