The world’s largest religious fair is also an administrative marvel
GN Bureau | January 16, 2013
A contingent of curious shutterbugs and sleepy foreigners await in the moist redness of the winter dawn the glimpse of the decade. A minute or two later, from behind the mistiness of the moment appears an unruly army of ash-smeared naga sadhus brandishing their swords and splashing their way ahead into the knee-deep waters of the Ganga — like a stud of playful stallions crashing into waters. This is the day’s first shahi snan at the Maha Kumbh mela at Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh on January 14, 2013.
The largest ever fair in the world — according to expectations more than 10 crore people will attend the 2013 Kumbha mela — is also a mammoth administrative exercise for the state government to handle this huge turnout of people at the Sangam. Right from creating the required infrastructure to avoiding any kind of terrorist activity, preventing stampedes or any other type of law and order challenge, various departments of the UP administration have once again come together to work for the smooth functioning of the mela.
The mela, which began on January 14, will go on for the next two months and will conclude on Maha Shivaratri on March 10. The administration is expecting a nearly 10 percent rise in pilgrims attending the mass Hindu pilgrimage this year compared to the previous Kumbh held in 2001. Exceptionally large crowds are also expected on Mauni Amavasya (February 10, 3 crore) and Basant Panchmi (February 15, 1.9 crore).
More than 7,000 personnel of central paramilitary forces, including companies of the Rapid Action Force, anti-terrorist squads, anti-mine squads, sniffer dogs and a host of other specialised security men and the National Disaster Response Force, have been pressed into service.
The Maha Kumbh area functions as an independent district and 12,000 police constables, 107 traffic inspectors, 12 additional superintendents of police, 16 assistant superintendents of police and 50 deputy superintendents of police lead the security network apart from the central police forces who will watch every inch of space in this area.
Pilgrims, who are camping in the sprawling Kumbh Mela ground, spread over an area of about 6000 acres, have been verified by security forces. Besides, a number of makeshift police stations and outposts have been erected in the area which has been notified as a temporary district and provided with the wherewithal to function as such.
The policemen have been made to undergo rigorous training of crowd management. They will be provided round-the-clock assistance by about 4000 personnel of the Provincial Armed Constabulary, the armed wing of UP police, which is known for its expertise in tackling tough situations. To keep a tab on the entire activity of the mela 85 CCTV cameras have been installed.
Also, there will be adequate deployment of police personnel at all the 38 bathing ghats along the rivers Ganga and Yamuna. It has been ensured that that the police personnel deployed there is expert divers and swimmers and are able to react quickly and effectively in case of an emergency.
The security set-up passed the first litmus test fairly well on day one when nearly 10 million people took the first dip. This number is expected to go up to 100 million devotees who will gather over the next 55 days to take the ritual bath in the holy Sangam, believed to cleanse sins and bestow blessings.
There is a massive increase in the amount of infrastructure created this year. The Public Works Department has established 18 pontoon bridges and has made 156.2 kilometre-long roads for the occasion. In 2001, the length of roads constructed stood at 96.4 kilometre, while 13 pontoon bridges were put up.
The Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam has laid down nearly 550-km water pipelines and given 20,000 connections for the convenience of the visitors, while in previous Kumbh, the length of pipelines and number of connections stood at 340 kilometres and 15,430 respectively. As many as 40 tubewells in comparison to 28 in 2001 would function this time, while approximately 80,000 kilolitres of drinking water would be available, up from previous tally of 56,000 kilolitres.
On the power front, the consumption is expected to 30MVA (megavolt- ampere) this time, while in 2001, power consumption was 18Mva. Similarly, there has been a significant increase in the number of power substations, which seen a rise from 49 in 2001 to 73 this time. The length of the electricity lines will see a leap from 565 kilometres in the previous congregation to 770 this time, while there would be 22,000 street lights this time, a jump of 5,135 units. Compared to 69,489 private connections in 2001, the number this time may soar beyond 1,30,000.
The ongoing Mela in Allahabad is projected to generate about Rs 12,000 crore of revenues and create over 6 lakh job opportunities, as per a report - ‘Maha Kumbh Mela 2013 – Possible Revenue Generation Resources for UP’ by Assocham.
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