Police, residents blame Cochin Carnival organisers for stampede-like situation during New Year bash

Over 4 lakh people crowded the Veli Ground which can hold just 30,000. There was no crowd management and providence averted a tragedy.

BySreerag PS

Published Jan 02, 2023 | 5:20 PMUpdatedJan 03, 2023 | 9:28 AM

New Year celebration in Fort Kochi (Supplied)

Residents of Fort Kochi are fuming over the alleged lapses on the part of authorities and organisers of the Cochin Carnival that led to a stampede-like situation on 31 December night.

A major tragedy was avoided by providence when more than four lakh revellers descended on Veli Ground at Fort Kochi to welcome the New Year, those who were at the scene said.

The Veli Ground, a Fort Kochi landmark, can accommodate 30,000 people.

Fort Kochi hosts New Year celebrations every year, where a giant effigy called Pappanji — grandfather or old man in Portuguese — is set ablaze.

After Pappanji was lit, the crowd pushed and shoved among themselves towards the exit, leading to the stampede-like situation, and leaving several people, including women, gasping for breath.

According to reports, more than 200 people, including police personnel, sought medical treatment after the event.

The police and residents said the Cochin Carnival committee discarded several decisions made months ahead to ensure a safe festival.

The committee comprises representatives of over 90 clubs, which come together annually under the chairmanship of the sub-collector (RDO), Fort Kochi.

Also read: After BJP ‘sees’ Modi, ‘Pappanji’ gets a new look and Kerala is laughing! 

Lucky escape

Abhinand, a native of Kannur residing at Edappally said that he and his family were lucky to escape from being trampled after the effigy was lit.


The Pappanji initially courted controversy after the BJP alleged it resembled Modi. (Supplied).

“We did not see any policemen or any other authorities controlling the crowd. There was no coordination in organising the event. Not even basic facilities like drinking water were provided by the organisers. We were lucky to escape through a post office to a parallel road outside the ground,” he said.

David, a homestay owner in Fort Kochi, said his property suffered damages to the tune of ₹1 lakh when people rushed in to escape the crowd. He has complained to the district collector.

“It doesn’t make sense to hold such a big function in this small area as nobody can control the crowd. The crowd quite naturally turned violent as they were pushed around,” he told South First.

“They had no other option other than to scale our wall to escape the crowd that was getting unruly. Many women were left behind on the road as they could not climb over the wall,” David, who identified himself only by his first name, said.

“When a woman cried for help, we opened our gates for her and people flooded in. By then enough damage has been done. Our roof was badly damaged,” he claimed.

David opined that the authorities should have allowed entry from one end and exit from the other end of the ground. “They shouldn’t have allowed parking of vehicles near the ground,” he added.

Police blame organisers

Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) in Mattancherry Arun K Pavithran said timely police intervention averted a major disaster.

“Senior officers including DCP and ACPs arrived at the scene and regulated the crowd for the safety of the people. It helped in averting a major disaster. It is due to the improper arrangements made by the authorities the situation became so serious,” the officer told South First.

He also said authorities concerned made no effort to set up barricades so that people could safely leave after the event. The officer said the police later put up barricades.

Pavithran added that only one Ro-Ro was in service instead of two, which delayed the movement of people. “People largely depend on the Ro-Ro service,” he said.

A record for Kochi Metro 

Nearly 1.23 lakh people used Kochi Metro to travel around the city. According to Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL), a total of 1,22,897 commuters used its services.

Considering the long night due to the New Year celebrations, KMRL operated until 1 am on 1 January.