Deepa Jainani finds out how back-of-house success in administration leads to front-of-house success in experience for the over 900 lakh pilgrims at the Maha Kumbh. Photos by Vishal Srivastav
As many as 900 lakh people, charged up sentiments, religion on the agenda and a state notorious for its law and order problems—there could not be a better recipe for disaster. But there are no discordant notes at the Kumbh Mela, currently on at Allahabad.
Greasing the wheels of efficiency, for starters, is the budget. Both the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh government have spent R11,000 crore to organise and manage the 56-day-long event. Second, the seriousness with which the administration approaches the showcase event. Friday evening’s incident of fire due to a gas leak was dealt with promptly and the state government immediately announced cash relief of R50,000 each to the seriously injured.
“The event is a prestigious one and a lot of honour is attached with it. There have been strict instructions right from chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and the state’s chief secretary, Jawed Usmani, that there should be no laxity in making proper arrangements for the events. In fact, the chief secretary has been continuously assessing the infrastructure and facilities at the Kumbh and has even conducted surprise checks of the facilities after he received complaints of unavailability of medical aid, water in toilets and poor roads in some parts of the mela area. He has directed the water board and mela authorities to ensure proper service delivery and ordered the appointment of one officer to monitor the health and sanitation facilities for each sector of the mela area,” an official of the local Kumbh Mela administration told FE.
As many as 30,000 security personnel have been put on duty, including police, paramilitary, rapid action force, special task force, anti-terror squad, army jawans, as well as intelligence sleuths who man the mela area round the clock. “As many as 30 police stations have been set up across the 52 sq km area of the mela, besides 85 CCTV cameras and 59 watch towers to supplement these arrangements,” says Alok Sharma, IG Allahabad zone, adding that a seven-tier security system eliminates any threat of lawlessness.
SP Ganganath Tripathi adds that security personnel have been specially sensitised to deal with pilgrims. “The pattern of duty here is different from general policing. So we had to instill in the forces that their duty here