With memory of Kharghar crowd deaths still fresh, government officials have expressed concern about the possibility of 3,00,000 people turning up at tricky Raigad Fort for the 350th anniversary of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s coronation on June 6
People enter the fort through the narrow Maha Darwaza. Pic/Anant Nandapurkar, Twitter
At least three lakh people are expected to attend the 350th anniversary of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s coronation on June 6 at the Raigad fort, which can accommodate at best 25,000 people at a time, and allows entry of just four to five people through its main entrance—Maha Darwaza. The statistics are enough to send warning bells to the preparations committee of Maharashtra government if they do not want a repeat of the Kharghar stampede.
The hill fort, built as part of warfare architecture, limits mass entry and large gatherings, while plans are afoot to have a mass congregation next month. A senior official attached to Mantralaya who is privy to the administration’s preparations, told mid-day that the biggest concern before the state machinery and police department is crowd turnout and management.
'A panic-like situation'
“In 2018, over one lakh people had visited the fort on June 6. There was a panic-like situation at one point, but any untoward incident was avoided following timely action by those present at the fort,” a senior government official stated.
The Maha Darwaza from which only about six people can pass at a time at Raigad Fort. Pic/Sanket Jagtap, Twitter
Corroborating the government version, Manoj Khambe, president of Raigad press club, told mid-day that in 2018, post 3 in the afternoon there was chaos at the entrance door. “Maximum six people can pass through the main door, but people coming down from the fort and those trying to reach the fort had come face to face. The crowd movement was restricted leading to a chaotic situation at the entrance. Timely intervention by the administration, volunteers and local citizens helped resolve the crisis and avoided things going badly out of hand. This year the crowd turnout will be much higher.
Hence, I request the administration to take more precautions and put proper mechanisms in place for crowd management,” Khambe added. This year being the 350th anniversary of Chhatrapati Shivaji’s coronation, the administration is expecting a turnout of around three lakh people. The administration has also made preparations to provide drinking water, parking lots and medical assistance.
Going by past experience of celebrations at Raigad fort, the administration is leaving no stone unturned to handle the situation. It is being more cautious post the tragic Kharghar episode. Fourteen deaths were reported after the Maharashtra Bhushan award ceremony. While there was a buzz that the deaths were due to a stampede, the administration refuted the claim and ascribed the deaths to sunstroke.
Tougher as numbers rise
Raigad District Collector Yogesh Mhase and Superintendent of police Somnath Gharge along with their subordinates are putting their shoulder to the wheel to ensure smooth coordination of the event. “But the moment the crowd starts crossing 2 lakh it will be a challenging task for the administration. The task will become even more difficult as numbers swell,” the state government official added.
The Raigad fort at Mahad. file pic/Rane Ashish
Over 98 per cent of the people attending the ceremony will have to climb the steps to reach the fort, as a rope way can handle only maximum 3,000 people in a day as the rope way has three trolleys. “As most people will be walking up and down on the celebration day, deployment of police force and other government machinery has been made accordingly,” the official added. Despite repeated attempts to contact them, both Mhase and Gharge were unavailable for comment.
More people are expected as it will be a show of strength at Raigad between two factions. CM Eknath Shinde and DyCM Devendra Fadnavis-led Shiv Sena-BJP government will celebrate the 350th coronation anniversary of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj at Raigad on June 2. Around 75,000 people are expected to participate in the celebrations. While the government will celebrate the event as per Tithi (date as per Hindu calendar), the descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Sambhajiraje Chhatrapati, will celebrate the same as per the Western calendar date. Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s coronation was on June 6, 1974 at Raigad fort.
Approx capacity of Raigad Fort at any given time
No of people who turned up on Coronation Day in 2018
The critical capacity as per administration
No of people expected to arrive on June 6