The largest religious congregation on the planet seems headed for disaster. With three months left for the Allahabad Kumbh Mela, a city in disarray and a near-total lack of preparations are a tragedy waiting to happen.
Preparations for the Maha Kumbh, which could see 10 crore pilgrims arriving between January 10 and March 10 next year, are divided into two categories–the beautification of Allahabad city, and building a new temporary township at the mela site. Work is yet to begin on either front. Allahabad’s major roads, which were to have been widened and extended, remain dug up for laying sewer lines and water pipelines, causing mishaps almost every day. The funds for the mela come from the Centre and the state. The chief secretary disburses these in tranches. A nodal officer—the Mela Officer—coordinates between various departments such as the PWD, power, urban development, roads, health and sanitation and waterways and supervises the work. Normally the post is occupied by an IAS officer; J S Nanda oversaw the last Kumbh Mela in. Now the Mela Officer in charge of next year’s maha event is Mani Prasad Mishra, a PCS officer. Compounding the lack of preparedness is the late revival of the monsoon, which has left the Ganga dangerously swollen.
The residents of Allahabad agree that preparations should have started two years ago. The BSP government which was responsible for work to start should have begun it two years ago. All works from PWD, power department, urban development are supervised by the Mela Officer. Mishra told The Sunday Standard: “I would say most works of a permanent nature should have been started two years back. But that did not happen.”