Why Religious Pilgrimages can be dangerous?

There have been many serious incidents during the Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to the city of Mecca, that have caused the loss of thousands of lives.

Maha Kumbh Mela 2013 has been marred by a series of tragedies that have taken place since it began on Jan 14, killing at least 42 people in four separate incidents.

Who takes the responsibility of these deaths? Government organizers, families or god?? These were the only two incidents I discussed over here. But there are numerous times when this happens! Some problems, such as respiratory infections, are probably unavoidable, but even those can be controlled with improved monitoring, sanitation, and education about hygiene. Pilgrims shouldn’t have to risk their lives to fulfill their obligation to God.

Religious festivals, especially when located at remote rural areas and on hilly terrains, and on the foothills or at riverbanks lacking proper pathways always pose a geographical risk to the pilgrims. Steep slopes, uneven topography of the venue, dead ends, slippery and muddy floors, narrow passages, convergence of pedestrian flow to a single point are among the common risks prevailing in religious gathering sites, compromising safety and triggering stampedes. Over the years, risk management strategies to tackle religious stampedes in India have been inadequate and have failed consistently.

So all readers be prepared. Hydrate. Wear appropriate shoes. Make sure you apply sunscreen if you’re going to be outdoors. These small steps may seem minor, but when you need to move fast, a blister or sunburn can slow you down and even become critically dangerous.

Along with preparation comes some situational awareness. When you arrive at your event, take a look around for exits and the routes that make the most sense for you. Are stairs an issue for your toddler and her stroller? Does your spouse have trouble with poorly lit hallways? Remember that you may not be able to take advantage of the main exit if things start to get bad. Take these things into account before disaster strikes.

Help the people surrounding you, knowing that if someone near you goes down, your chances of escaping are greatly diminished. The fact is that in so many crises, your own individual chances of survival rise and fall with the people around you.

We seem to have become too used to deaths at religious events, dismissing them as somehow part of the pilgrimage. They are not. Death does not need to be destiny.

This article is not intended to hurt the sentiments of any person or religious group. The idea is to convey the message of being alert and safe.
Mansi Jain
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