Undoubtedly the biggest congregation on earth, the Maha Kumbh Mela could also claim to be the only place where 1. 55 lakh are lost on a single occasion.
Ravei Devi ,75, who had come from a Maharashtra village to take part in the Kumbh, is just one among them. It has been over a week since some volunteers brought her from Sector 8 of the tent township to the “lost and found” camp and no one has come looking for her. The camp is overcrowded with children, women and men.
Later, many of them reunited with their dear ones. The public address system blares out the profiles of the lost ones. Nearly 200 volunteers pick up the lost ones from around the Kumbh city and bring them to the camp, which is run by Umesh Chand Tewari, who is following in the footsteps of his father, Rajaram Tewari. Rajaram, 86, still supervises the functioning of the camp. “We’ve been running this camp for over 50 years. Even the government has recognised our social work and allots space for the camp,”Umesh said.
In 2001, Umesh said, the “lost and found” figure was 1.12 lakh. However, he doesn’t blame the authorities for the rise in the number of such people.
“No, it is because of unprecedented crowds turning up for the Maha Kumbh,” he said. When asked, Umesh said a number of people donate money, foodgrain and eatables to run the camp, which is organised during all festivals at the Sangam such as Ardha Kumbh, Maha Kumbh and Maagh Mela. On many occasions, his volunteers pick up ailing persons abandoned by their relatives.
Once Umesh found a 10 year-old boy, paralysed by polio, lying near a dustbin. After nursing him for seven days, he shifted the boy to an Allahabad hospital. Sometimes he sends the deserted people home after giving them bus or rail fare. Nearly 50 per cent of these 1.55 lakh people come from eastern UP, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand.