Recently I visited Wagah Border which is most famous point on the border between India and Pakistan and there is definitely a scope of making things much better than how it is being handled currently. This is my experience and probable things that can be planned in order to make it a pleasant experience for everyone.
According to the limited historical reference this Beating Retreat Ceremony at the Wagah boarder started in 1959 and is conducted every day by the Border Security Forces in India and Pakistani Rangers in Pakistan. I am sure everyone would have seen this on TV and I am not going to explain the ceremony per se but share my experience of my visit.
“VIP culture” – India is infamous for VIP culture and it is more than evident on the Wagah border. It seems that if you know someone in Defense or Border Security Force your name can get listed in the elite list that is created daily and then you can just jump the whole line of “commoners”, get the parking closest to the gate and get picked by the small electrical vans running and also get an entry into the auditorium without much of fuss.
Someone like me who has come all the way from Bangalore to have a glimpse of the ceremony could not even see it. I reached there around 3:30 PM and since I did not get the VIP pass, I was on the line of commoners which had quite a huge rush. The number of BSF personnel maintaining the lines were very few and there was no way they could handle such a crowd. After standing in the queue for more than an hour we reached at the auditorium gate which was already closed. There was a small gate on the back side where it seems they were allowing some people. Seeing that many started running towards it and since it was such a small gate that there was a stampede like situation already. We somehow came out of it and then spent rest of time looking at the single LCD screen which off course isn’t that great.
“Lack of Support Staff” – I know BSF has no business of helping the touristy interests on the citizens and they have more important roles to play. But Wagah has become a tourist point now and anyone coming down to see Golden Temple which is a must while visiting Amritsar will definitely visit Wagah. As many people come from all over India to see Wagah border, they are aware that it is once in a lifetime experience and they want to get into the viewing area and this creates a stampede like situation which BSF personnel are not equipped to handle.
“Suggestions for improvements”
- Remove any VIP allocation of the seats in the viewing area. Make all the facilities available for everyone visiting the place rather than create differentiation based on acquaintance with defense personnel. Stop the so called “elite list”
- Constitute an entity that will take care of such tourist destinations like Wagah within BSF
- Create online ticketing provided by IRCTC or anybody else so that the seats will be allocated beforehand and tourist will not create stampede like situation and coordinating agency can prepare to handle the crowd. A fixed amount of people can go inside and rest can see if from the outside knowing that they will not be allowed.
- Create better lounges and standing areas with shade from the sun as it does got very hot in these areas
- Donations for government schemes and merchandise can be sold at the site making the entity self sustainable
I have seen that people have a patriotic feeling which can be enhanced greatly by giving a streamlined experience rather than what I have seen this time. Hopefully this can be piloted in Wagah and then moved to other border areas like Nathula Pass, Rohtang Pass and other places which are sensitive areas but there has been tourist influx.