Smooth hosting of a large public event like Nanda Raj Jat requires good cooperation and coordination between both the host and the participants. I observed that the host provided some good basic amenities during the event. The police did not use any force anywhere considering the religious sentiments of the participants. However, many pilgrims misbehaved on many occasions. For instance,
Missing Decorum at Public Conveniences
Some pilgrims (yatris) stole new spotless buckets and mugs provided in free Sulabh Shauchalayas built along the Nanda Raj Jat route. The rough use of the toilet accessories shortened the lifespan and created inconvenience. I also found cracked buckets at the temporary toilets.
Many pilgrims with poor civic sense did not even pour the water after using the toilets although water points were just outside the toilets in most of the stopovers or within a very short walking distance. So what does public want? Should police personnel also be appointed to maintain the cleanliness?
A number of yatris shat in the dry drains along the path meandering through the villages.
Occasionally, men forced their way into the ladies toilets ignoring the ladies awaiting their turn. They shamelessly argued for their bad behavior: The number of ladies’ toilets was more than that of gents’ toilets given the number of man pilgrims vis-à-vis the number of woman pilgrims.
Greed for Freebies
At a number of stopovers, the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) and private parties served free food and snacks. Even complimentary oral rehydration salt (ORS) packets were distributed among pilgrims. However, there were clever pilgrims who collected more and more of these essential items. Probably they subsisted on these free food items. Many other pilgrims therefore did not get anything.
My question to the opportunistic yatris who wanted to do the pilgrimage free of cost is: Why should government bear all the expenses of all the yatris? Why did pilgrims not carry ration and tents for the religious trek / holiday?
Pilgrims were not interested in queuing up to collect free food or entering the temple complexes. Every time they needed instructions from the counter managers or from personnel in uniform.
Many yatris even dared to queue-jump on precarious miry narrow trail sections where there was no choice but to walk in a queue. The queue jumpers had an excuse: Old pilgrims walked slowly. Young pilgrims could not walk slowly.
Several yatris who started late from Shila Samundra made a second queue between Shila Samundra and the fork where the left trail goes to Chandniya Ghat and the right to Homkund. Men in uniform warned them. Then, the latecomers tried to force their way into the main queue where several well-behaved pilgrims who started early to minimize the queue time were waiting for their turn to proceed to their destinations.
Littering the Trail
Many yatris threw wrappers of toffies, chocolates, and snacks on the route.
Lies, Quarrels, Rumors, and Loud Protests during Nights
A number of pilgrims spread rumors, told lies, and indulged in empty rhetoric fraught with foul language and sloganeering, especially during nights, thereby disturbed sleep.
The yatris from Sutol and Wan quarreled at Kaluwa Vinayak, which was not appropriate. They created chaos.
Plundering Brahma Kamal from Bhaguwasa
On the 16th day, the early risers plundered brahma kamal, the State Flower, from the slopes hemming the trail around Bhaguwasa that is known for the rare flower. The latecomers were at disadvantage on that day. They did not get a chance to feel and sniff the flower.
In fact, a boulder in Bhaguwasa read “Do not pluck the flowers.” Ironically, the yatris ignored the stony signboard. They plucked all available flowers for two reasons: to offer these to the gods and goddesses during puja and to take home the holy gift.
At the end of the pilgrimage, the yatris grumbled: the brahma kamal wilted. The moral of the story is that do not collect flowers, especially those do not have a long life.
Traveling in high altitude and reaching the Himalayan heights demand reasonably good physical and mental endurance and careful planning. It also requires special etiquettes because of the fragile environment. Many pilgrims either did not know the location specific protocols or deliberately flouted these.
Public should understand its role, an important one, in smooth functioning of any big event. Especially, the events hosted in remote delicate high altitude environs require public support because well-behaved participants can only ensure peace and security.
Remember use of force to maintain law and order gives fake feeling of safety for a short while.