India has experienced another massive death count due to a stampeded at a religious festival. The latest tragedy occurred at a Hindu religious bathing festival on the bank of the Godavari River in the Andhra Pradesh state on July 14. It is a predictable (and avoidable) occurrence. Local police and government officials fail to take proper precautions and a massive group overwhelms organizers. In this case, as soon as access to the river was given, thousands stampeded to get to the water to wash away their sins. In doing so, they crushed 27 people (mainly women) to death and injured 40.
Hindus believe that if you bath in the river on this special day, all of your sins are washed away. Pushkaram is dedicated to worshiping of 12 sacred rivers and happens annually — once at every river. The Maha Pushkaram (“Great Pushkaram”) takes place once every 144 years.
Like other rivers in India, the Godavari River is highly polluted and is drying up due to industrial use. The carcinogens do not stop the desire to bathe in the river however.
Arun Kumar, the chief of the district, admitted that there were “inadequate arrangements” for the crowds of worshippers – a common refrain in India following stampede deaths.
This may be a case of not just inadequate preparation but inadequate accountability, particularly through lawsuits. Cities often respond to the threat of liability more than simple calls of humanity. There does not appear to be any serious liability in such case. Even if there are laws on the books, the Indian legal system is a disgrace with cases pending for years without action of any kind.