With such a lukewarm response to the Kumbh Mela in Ujjain, a group of India- and the Netherlands-based research scholars finds itself in a sweat. The group is here to understand crowd dynamics, behaviour and psychology.
“We haven’t been able to collect any data so far. Hopefully, May 9 – the day of the “shaahi snaan” – will give us an opportunity to do just that, said Ashish Verma, a professor at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru.
Verma’s group is developing urbane methods and algorithms to help policymakers and event managers in handling extremely large crowds, by analysing crowd data obtained from the Kumbh Mela.
It also hopes to provide better crowd management solutions, right from designing to building personnel devices for tracking the movement of people.
“Based on 20 different experiments to collect data, we will try to understand crowd behaviour through simulation, which will help us predict the movement of large crowds at the Kumbh,” said Meghna Verma, a member the group. “The authorities would be informed well within time, say 30 minutes, and they can then take necessary action.”
Jointly led by Verma and University of Amsterdam professor M A Sloot, the group also comprises some 45 researchers from Russia and Singapore. The group is using technologies like Go-pro cameras and drones. The three-year long, ^2 million project is funded by the Indo-Dutch Joint Research Programme, and backed by organisations such as Honeywell, Tata Memorial Centre, Tech Mahindra and Salland Electronics.
The fund has been made available by the Netherlands-based NWO Physical Sciences, and the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) of the Union Ministry of Communication and Information Technology.
The research group – camping in Ujjain since November last year – first collected data on April 27. “We are trying to understand crowd dynamics through its behaviour and psychology,” Louis Dijkstra, a research scholar at ITMO University (Russia), told Business Standard.
The group will come out with its final findings in 2018, thus helping the Centre and state governments in framing crowd management guidelines accordingly.
“Our objective is to put forth some concrete helps authorities in precarious situations such as stampedes,” said Verma . “Such a research work is being conducted for the first time anywhere in the world.”
If successful, Indian as well as other governments would be able to frame certain guidelines that would pave way for institutes such as the National Disaster Management Authority and the Madhya Disaster Management Authority. The Netherlands will also reap scientific benefits from such research.
The group will be able to raise an alarm if the police or other disaster management authorities find it difficult to control the crowd in case of a stampede or any such event. A number of students from local colleges and universities have also been roped in.
“We have two main objectives: more safety and more accuracy,” Verma further said. The National Disaster Management Authority and the Madhya Pradesh State Disaster Relief Management Authority are already in talks with the group. “Based on our findings, we can help governments draw up measures to control crowds. They can also build capacity and impart training in the area of disaster management,” he added.
Verma is also initiating research on traffic management, post-earthquake management and urban flooding.