Stampede Disaster and its Management in India- Explained Pointwise

ForumIAS announcing GS Foundation Program for UPSC CSE 2025-26 from 10th August. Click Here for more information.

In the recent stampede during a religious gathering in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras district on July 2, at least 121 people (almost all women) lost their lives. This is not the first time when a large number of people have lost their lives in a stampede at a religious gathering. 79% of all stampedes in India from 1954-2012 have taken place in religious mass gatherings.

This calls for a detailed look into the issue of Stampede Disaster and the measures needed to be taken to manage it.

Table of Content
What is stampede? What are the infamous stampede cases in India?
What are the major causes of Stampedes in India?
What are the Impact of these Stampedes?
What are the NDMA Guidelines for the prevention of Stampedes in India?
What are the Challenges in the implementation of these Guidelines?
What Should be the Way Forward?

What is stampede? What are the infamous stampede cases in India? 

Stampede- Stampede is the disruption of the orderly movement of crowds which leads to injuries and fatalities. This impulsive mass movement of crowd often takes place in response to a perceived danger, loss of physical space or a will to attain something as gratifying.

Process of a Stampede

Stampede Disaster Process
Source- NDMA Disaster Guidelines

Some Notable Deadly Stampede Disasters in India

Allahabad Kumbh Mela Stampede (1954)It is the most fatal Kumbh Mela stampede in history. It resulted in the loss of around 800 lives.
Wai Stampede (2005)The stampede at the Mandhardevi temple in Maharashtra’s Satara district resulted in the death of 340 people.
Naina Devi Temple Stampede (2008)Rumors of landslide started the stampede at the Naina Devi Temple in 2008. It resulted in the death of atleast 145 people which included dozens of women and children.
Jodhpur Temple Stampede (2008)The stampede at the Chamunda Devi Temple resulted in the death of at least 168 people.
Allahabad Railway Stampede (2013)Last-minute change in the platform for the pilgrims who had gathered for the Khumbh Mela, created panic and resulted in a stampede. It led to the loss of around 36 lives.
Mumbai pedestrian bridge Stampede (2017)The stampede at the crowded Pedestrian Bridge connecting the two Mumbai railway stations resulted in the death of 22 people and injured 32.
Mata Vaishnav Devi shrine (2022)The Stampede at the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine resulted in the death 22 people and injured 32.
Stampede Statistics In India
According to the National Crime Records Bureau figures, from 2000 to 2013, almost 2,000 people died in stampedes in India.
A 2013 study published by International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction (IJDRR) points out that religious gathering and pilgrimages have been venues for 79% of the stampedes in India.
Stampede Disaster
Source- TOI

What are the major causes of Stampedes in India?

Structural Causes

The stampedes occur due to structural and design failures in the buildings, bridges etc. This includes the following causes-
(a) Structural collapse of makeshift bridges, railings, temporary structures
(b) Improper and unauthorised built structures
(c) Railings of the bridge collapsing due to panic triggered by rumours
(d) Difficult terrain (famous religious sites built on top of hills that are difficult to access)
(e) Narrow streets with very few entry/exits
(f) Absence of emergency exits

Fire/Electricity causes

This includes the following causes-
(a) Fire in a makeshift facility or a shop, and illegal and unauthorised structure
(b) Non-availability of fire extinguishers in working condition
(c) Building and fire code violations, unauthorized fireworks in enclosed places
(d) Electricity supply failure creating panic and triggering a sudden exodus
(e) Illegal electric connections and faulty electric equipment

Crowd Behaviour

The stampedes are either triggered or made worse by panic. Crowd behaviour plays an important role in it. Following are some crowd behaviour causes-
(a) Craze- In large group settings, this “craze” percolates to every member and can make them act in detriment to their own individual interests. For ex- One of the major causes behind the recent Hathras Stampede has been the rush to touch the preacher’s feet and trying to collect soil from where he walked.
(b) Crowds forcing to entrance/exits a venue after the start/closing time
(c) Rush during distribution of disaster relief supplies
(d) A large (much more than expected) anxious and competitive crowd gathering at promotional events
(f) Unruly and irresponsible crowd behaviour
(g) Last minute change in platform for train arrival/departure resulting in lots of movements within short period of time

Security Issues

This includes:
(a) Security Personnel
(i) Under deployment of security staff and deployment of untrained staff
(ii) Lack of adequate rehearsals and briefing of security personnel on crowd control
(iii) Lack of adequate scientific planning in making police arrangement to deal with crowd with proper sectoral deployment, and lack of proper wireless deployment
(iv) Ineptitude of the police in effectively managing the crowd and enforcing prohibitory orders
(b) Surveillance
(i) Lack of adequate observation towers with proper wireless communication to monitor and regulate crowd
(ii) Lack of adequate CCTV surveillance of the crowd
(iii) Absence of public announcement systems or effective wireless system with the police;
(c) Infrastructure
(i) Lack of adequate road opening parties to secure the routes
(ii) Lack of adequate metal detectors and frisking of pilgrims entering the pilgrimage area or persons entering the gathering area

Lack of Coordination between Stakeholders

This includes the following issues-
(a) Coordination gap between agencies (e.g. Police and District Magistrate; PWD, Fire Service, Forest officials, Revenue officials, Medical officers etc.)
(b) Poor infrastructure (Plans on paper but no implementation due to lack of funds, resources, or will)
(c) Inadequate water, medical assistance, public transport/parking facilities
(d) Communication delays
(e) Vacant/late/delayed posting of key personnel

What are the Impact of these Stampedes?

Stampedes at religious gatherings in India have significant impacts on local communities. Mentioned below are some of the major impacts.

1. Trauma and Loss- Witnessing a stampede tragedy and the resultant deaths and injuries causes immense trauma, especially for those who lost loved ones. For ex- Deadly stampede killing 121 people in Hathras.

2. Economic Hardship- The majority of victims in such stampedes come from lower castes and poor backgrounds. Their deaths leave families without primary breadwinners, causing economic hardship in the community. Also the cost of funerals and medical expenses further strain already limited resources.

3. Erosion of Trust- Repeated stampedes at Indian religious festivals due to similar failures further undermine faith in the ability of organizers to keep devotees safe. For ex- Gross negligence like poor planning, with insufficient exits, inadequate crowd control, and lack of emergency preparedness, by organizers and authorities erodes trust in religious institutions.

4. Loss of Social and Human Capital- Many young children and women are the victims of these stampede tragedies. This leads to loss of the productive social and human capital of the country.

What are the NDMA Guidelines for the prevention of Stampedes in India?

In view of the recurring stampedes at places of mass gathering, including religious places, and typically ad-hoc responses to those, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has prepared ‘Suggestive Framework for Preparation of Crowd Management Plan for Events/Venues of Mass Gathering’.

Stampede Prevention
Source- NDMA
Understanding venue, visitors and stakeholdersIt requires understanding of-
a. Type of event (such as religious, schools/ university, sports event, music event, political event)
b. Expected Crowd (age, gender, economic strata)
c. Crowd Motives (such as social, academic, religious, entertainment, economic etc.)
d. Venue (location, topography of area, temporal or permanent, open or closed)
e. Role of other stake holders (such as NGOs, neighbours of event venue, local administrators etc.)
Crowd Handlinga. Proper regulation of Traffic around the mass gathering venues.
b. A route map for venues along with emergency exits route maps.
c. Barricade facility to control the movement of crowd queues.
d. Snake line approach should be followed in case large crowd queues
e. The organizers of crowded events/venue managers should discourage general admissions and have plans to handle VIP visitors.
Safety and Securitya. The venue Organisers should ensure authorised use of electricity, use of fire safety extinguishers as per the safety guidelines.
b. Use of CCTV cameras to monitor crowds and use of mini UAV in case of big crowd spread.
CommunicationA public address system, with loudspeakers installed at all crowded points, to communicate with the crowds.
Medical and Emergency careMedical first-aid rooms and emergency operations centres to handle post-disaster emergencies should be set up
Role of Event ManagersThe event organizers and venue managers should develop, implement, review and revise the disaster management plan in coordination with others including local administration and police.
Role of Civil societyEvent/venue managers should involve NGOs and civil defence in traffic control, people flow control, medical assistance, sanitation and mobilization of local resources in case of disaster.
Role of policeThe police should actively participate in venue assessment and preparedness checks and guide crowd and traffic movements.
Role of Media(a) Educational- Media can educate public about the possible disaster threats, ways to prevent them and how to be better prepared in the face of a disaster
(b) Critical- Media can critically evaluate the disaster management plans to highlight the gaps for correction;
Capacity BuildingCapacity building, conduction of drills, periodic assessment of training of security personnel, police is essential to prevent crowd disasters

Use of ICT in Stampede Management

Role of ICT in Stampede Management
Source- NDMA Guidelines for ICT use in Disaster Management

What are the Challenges in the implementation of these Guidelines?

1. Lack of adoption and implementation- The state governments and local authorities have not yet properly implemented the NDMA guidelines on crowd management.

2. Rapidly rising population- With rising population and rapid urbanization, urban areas have become more susceptible along with places of frequent mass gatherings like temples.

3. Greater tolerance to crowd- According to several psychologists, there is very high tolerance for crowded places in India, because Indians don’t feel uncomfortable until it’s very packed. Hence, large-scale events in India become more susceptible to stampedes because of a greater tolerance for high-density crowds.

4. Governance and accountability-  Agencies responsible for issuing permissions/ licences for mass gatherings, events often fail to follow the guidelines and the requirements. Further, there is lack of accountability on part of the authorities.

What Should be the Way Forward?

1. Legislation, Rules and Regulations for Stampedes- Supreme Court in Uphaar Cinema Tragedy observed that there is a need for a comprehensive legislation dealing with tortuous liability of the State.

2. Specialisation and Professionalism- India needs to emphasize effective communication, sensitive on-ground interventions, specialized personnel training, safety insurance, online customer feedback system, transparency, statutory compliances and professionalism, to maintain the decorum of the crowd in huge events.

3. Use of technology- Latest technology such as CCTV surveillance with HD IP cameras with VMS (Video Management Software), mobile control room, drones for roof level surveillance and public address system, face recognition among crowds and robotic support should be deployed extensively in crowded places.

4. Capacity Evaluation- There should be proper evaluation of the capacity of a location or structure before holding mass gatherings. Existing infrastructural problem should be addressed to avoid mishaps.

5. Crowd Behaviour Management- Every mass event must have a public address system for the officials to stop rumours from getting out of hand, calm panicking crowds, and help people exit in a systematic manner.

6. Penalties- Stricter penalties, revocation of licenses for construction/fire safety violations, random checks and inspections, must be adopted ensure effective compliance.

7. Engaging Civil Society- The Local Civilian Organisations like NGOs must be actively engaged in the event for capacity building of event managers etc, for easy mobilization of local resources, better preparedness and traffic control.

8. Learning from Global Best Practices- The learnings from Global Best Practices in Crowd Management must be adopted for effective management of Stampedes in India. For ex- Crowd management during Haj Pilgrimage in Makkah.

Read More- The Indian Express
UPSC Syllabus- GS 3 Disaster Management
Print Friendly and PDF