A stampede-like situation was seen when police partially opened a gate to allow some NRIs to enter the hall. Some got hurt and screams of pain were heard as the crowd surged and tried to squeeze through the narrow space. Videos of this went viral.
A 58-year-old NRI from Mauritius was rushed to hospital after he fainted, while another delegate fell down and injured his forehead.
Sloppy management of such mega events, where hundreds of eminent PIOs and NRIs are invited, not only discomforts the guests but also lowers the image of India. One hopes that the event is better organised tomorrow. Atithi Devo Bhava (The Guest is God) cannot be reduced to a catchline. It should be followed in letter and spirit.
As the crowd swelled, more than 500 people were herded into a registration area and asked to watch the event on large screens. Upsetand angry, NRI delegates from the US, Britain, Jamaica, Mauritius, Qatar and several other nations minced no words. “We have paid to attend the event and have flown down for this. This is insulting,” said a delegate.
“Why should we watch the event on TV? I could have done it at home. Why did I have to spend so much and come here? This is insulting. Is this Atithi Devo Bhava?” asked Julie Jain from the US.
“If we had to see Modiji on screen, we could have done it back home,” another delegate griped.
The uproar prompted CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan to apologise from the stage, before Modi and other dignitaries delivered their speeches. “I apologise. The hall fell inadequate. But there is no shortage of love and affection for you in our hearts,” he said.
The question being asked now is why didn’t the organisers plan for it when they knew well in advance that 3,500 delegates had paid $100 each and registered for it? The main hall can seat 2,000, but filled up 90 minutes before Modi’s arrival. Some delegates were heard fuming that the hall was “filled with party workers and sarkari officials”.
Even media people had a tough time entering the hall. Many were stopped at the gates. Jay Mandal, a US-based photojournalist, was shocked to see the media being kept away from PM’s event and told to depend on government handouts. MEA officials refused any comment other than “We can’t do anything”.
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