New Delhi: When human devices fail, why not seek spiritual direction?
Delhi Police, gearing up to meet the maddening traffic challenges during the wedding season, is seeking traffic and crowd management tips from the Radha Soami sect, which organises three huge congregations here every year with minimal disruption for the public.
In a letter to owners of country villas - euphemistically called farm houses - in the city, the preferred venue for marriages, Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi has asked them to closely monitor how the Radha Soami deras (ashrams) manage traffic whenever they host a religious function that is attended by hundreds of followers, sources said.
"The deras deploy numerous volunteers all around the premises and on the main roads whenever they host a function and you hardly ever witness a traffic jam. It's remarkable," a police officer, who did not wish to be named, said.
"The volunteers ensure that the cars are parked at the right spot and that no one strays into the opposite lane while waiting," the officer added.
The owners have also been asked to give inputs on additional measures that the police can take to better manage the traffic around the marriage venues.
According to police, every year Delhi witnesses over a thousand marriages and many of them are held in the sprawling country villas, most of which are located in south Delhi's Fatehpur Beri, Chhattarpur and Mehrauli areas as also in areas like Najafgarh in west Delhi. The city has around 1,500 country villas, of which 300 are commercialised.
People pay anything between Rs 10 lakh (USD 162,000) to Rs.30 lakh for a function, depending on the location, decoration, food and beverages and the like.
And at any marriage function, at least 500 to 1,000 cars are parked in and around the venue and this invariably results in traffic gridlocks in the area.
The police station head of a south Delhi neighbourhood that has around 100 country villas said that during the peak wedding season ‘not less than 15,000 cars can be seen parked all around the area and spilling on to main roads as well'.
Some owners of country villas acknowledged the headache this causes but expressed their inability to follow the police's suggestions.
Arguing that ‘adequate' security guards are deployed during functions, the owners said the proposition of hiring hundreds of people just to manage traffic was ‘not financially viable'.
"Whenever we hold a function, we provide adequate security guards to manage parking, traffic and security and they do coordinate with the police," one owner said, adding that the manpower of the deras could not be matched.
"They have thousands of followers and hundreds of volunteers do the job (manage traffic) for free. You can't expect us to pay for hundreds of guards to do the same. It's not financially viable," he added.
Radha Soami centres are spread all over the national capital and satsangs (sermons) are held every Sunday.
However, the main religious gatherings are organised thrice a year in March, October and November and are attended by thousands of followers from neighbouring states as well. The event takes place in an ashram near south Delhi's Bhati Mines and volunteers are deployed on all the roads around the venue to ensure the smooth flow of traffic.
The Radha Soami faith emerged in 1861 as an extremely simplified form of religion with an emphasis on performing social and community service. It has a following estimated at some three million in India and across the world.