Rath Yatra: Police hold mock drill; mammoth arrangement in place

Puri: Keeping the huge crowd expected to gather in the holy town during Rath Yatra on Saturday, the State police today conducted a mock drill at the Reserve Police Lines here today to give finishing touches to their crowd control techniques.

“The police department usually takes care of the safety of the chariots and manages the crowd when the chariots are on the move. We usually conduct a mock drill to review the preparedness. Today’s drill was aimed at that,” said Soumendra Priyadarshi, the officer-on-special duty (OSD) for Nabakalebara.

“As there are only two days left for the mega event, we examined our techniques on keeping the chariot under control by cordoning it off so that the devotees don’t get too close to it, and managing the crowd while the chariots are being pulled etc,” the top cop added.

The mock drill was held under the supervision of director-general of police (DGP) Sanjeev Marik, the Central region IG, the Sri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) authorities and other senior police officials, besides Priyadarshi.

Meanwhile, the security arrangements of Rath Yatra have been further beefed up in view of the death of 27 people, including 23 women, in the stampede that broke out at Pushkar ghat on the banks of the Godavari river at Rajahmundry yesterday, the first day of the 12-day Godavari Pushkaram festival.

“Odisha Police maintains zero-tolerance to any breach of arrangement made for the safety of pilgrims. We have trained our personnel not only in maintaining law and order but also coordinating the traffic management in order to avoid any possible stampede during the festival,” DGP Marik said while addressing security personnel here today.

A total of 14 superintendents of police (SPs), 35 additional SPs, 80 deputy SPs, 109 inspectors, 641 sub-inspectors, 500 constables, 120 traffic constables and havildars, 2,570 home guards, three platoons of Rapid Action Force (RAF), two companies of Special Operation Group (SOG) are part of the mammoth arrangement, he said.

Also deployed are two companies of Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF), personnel of Coast Guards, Navy, intelligence wings, bomb disposal squads and sniffer dogs.

The mega event is expected to draw about 30 lakh devotees to the holy town on Saturday.