The largest religious festival in the world is scheduled to take place from January 15 till March 4, 2019. Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath is leaving no stone unturned to make this Kumbh Mela, a memorable experience for all the devotees and undo the damage caused to the image of the Kumbh Mela due to the previous SP government. For the first time ever, Prayagraj Mela Development Authority has been set up that would work as a central point for all preparations for the event. Here’s a detailed analysis of Kumbh Mela 2019:
Travel to the Mela is often expensive, especially for those coming from far-off places and acts as a deterrent. Hence, for the first time ever, Indian Railways have announced 800 special trains to carry the devotees to the Mela. The breakdown is as follows: The North Central Railway Administration will run 622 trains, Northeast Railway 110 while the Northern Railway will run 68 special trains. The Government has decided to also waive off the fare surcharge and now devotees can travel to Prayagraj for as low as Rs.5/- while the highest charge has been capped at Rs.40/- which is for the first class AC coach. The Railways will establish extra infrastructure like direction-wise enclosures with additional Passenger Reservation System counters, at the Sangam area where the event will be held. Air India on its part has also announced new flights to Prayagraj from Ahmedabad, Delhi and Kolkata.
The Yogi government has decided to spend Rs 2800 crore for the Mela which is far more than the Rs 1214 crore spent by the then SP government in 2013. The U.P. government has also sent invitations to over 6,00,000 villages and has created state of the art infrastructure. A humongous 250 km roads and close to 22 pontoon bridges (1,795 pontoons were used) have been set up in Prayagraj, comfortably making it the largest temporary city in the world. For the first time ever, a devotee can reach the Mela by four routes, i.e Air, railway, road and river. The Inland Waterways Authority of India has set up four floating terminals and two vessels to enable pilgrim movement. Floating terminals will be situated at Kilaghat, Sarasvati Ghat, Naini Bridge and Sujawan Ghat. CL Kasturba and SL Kamla will be the two vessels deployed. Additionally, five temporary jetties at Chatnag, Sirsa, Sitamarhi, Vindhyachal and Chunar have also been set up for embarkment and disembarkment of passengers. Airboat service from Varanasi to Prayagraj will also be provided and would be able to carry 16 people at a time at a speed of 80 Kilometres per hour. In November last year, PM Modi launched the first national waterway from Varanasi to Haldia and keeping that in mind, the state government is looking to boost tourism through waterways and hence, machines have been deployed to measure the water level for the operation of ships from Prayagraj to Delhi. These machines have been floated from Chunar and Patna. Where there is less water, the dredging machine has also been brought from the vessel to get the ship from there. The Bamrauli airport in Prayagraj is essentially an air force station and Yogi Adityanath has infused 290 crores to create a separate civilian airport which can handle all kinds of flights including Boeing 737. A four-lane flyover from Begum Bazaar to the airport has also been constructed. 9 new Rail Over Bridges and 6 Rail Under bridges are set to be developed and expanded respectively. To prevent a 2013 like scenario where 42 people died and over 100 people injured during a stampede at the Prayag railway station, all the bus and railway stations have been upgraded and all the bus stations will be situated at the outskirts to decentralize the rush.
In a welcome break, the UP government is aiming to create an infrastructure that would last well beyond the mela. Take, for example, the power poles. Earlier they used to be made of bamboo to provide power at the mela but now the bamboo poles have been replaced by metal poles with the intent to keep them functioning well beyond the Mela. Shringverpur, situated about 45 km from Prayagraj holds a special place in the hearts of the pilgrims. It is believed that it was here where Lord Ram crossed the Ganga on his way to exile and hence, the place has been given a facelift and beautified. To carry the pilgrims from the city centre to the riverbank, the government will ply around 542 shuttle buses which will be free of cost. The buses will be stopped at the parking area and then there will be decorated e-rickshaws waiting to ply the pilgrims around the Kumbh area. The buses will be would be parked around 4 km away from the main mela spot at Phaphamau and from there the e-rickshaws will carry the devotees. Rows of chequered plates have been placed along the planks to facilitate their movement. There are about 84 parking areas with the capacity to hold 5,00,000 vehicles along with 54 holding areas for crowd control during the mela. 300 water ATMs, 1000 changing rooms,50 medical zones and 40 Police stations have been set up at the main Kumbh site. The Kumbh area has been doubled from 5,000 acres to 10,000 acres.
Prayagraj’s beautification is for all to see. One stroll through the city and one can see how Prayagraj has been transformed into an artist’s dream which is due to the state government’s campaign of ‘Paint My City’. About 20,00,000 square feet public place area have been painted under this campaign. Thematic gates, flags, selfie points the city has it all and lakhs of plants are being planted to add to the greenery of the city. Keeping up with PM Modi’s mission to build toilets at a breakneck speed, there will be a whopping 1,22,000 toilets at the mela along with thousand of dustbins with liner bags. 15,000 sanitation workers along with 2,000 Ganga Praharis have been engaged as foot soldiers to keep the mela clean. The waste will be swiftly disposed of by 40 compactors and 120 tippers present at the site.
The holy dip holds a lot of significance for the devotees. The holy dip is said to cleanse one’s sins and help one achieve salvation. For that to happen, Ganga simply has to remain clean. The UP government has identified 227 drains that flow into the Ganga and have employed 206 engineers for the same to ensure that the river is clean for the holy dip with 4 dredgers being tasked to dredge Ganga from Varanasi to Prayagraj. The engineers have been tasked to report the condition of the drains, ensure sample collection and update the findings online in real time along with the river’s pictures. They are also required to upload the GPS-coordinates of the drain, the volume of sludge added by it into the river and the technology used to clean the drain water.
The accommodation in the Kumbh Mela is through tents and tourists prefer to live in these tents instead of hotels as they are situated in the city centre which is approx 8-10 kilometres away from the main site. There will be 4,200 premium tents operating on a PPP basis and a public accommodation with a capacity of 20,000 beds. Five Pandals like Ganga and Pravachan Pandal are exclusively there for cultural, spiritual and religious programmes. The government has also planned to keep the pilgrims hooked by organising walks like the Sangam Walk which starts at Shankar Viman Mandapam and ends at Ram Ghat and will cover Patalpuri Mandir, Akshaya Vat and Allahabad Fort. Laser Light and Sound show will also take place at regular intervals.
PM Modi throughout his term has emphasized on the importance of NRIs and tried to enhance India’s image on the global stage and with Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, he plans to take his efforts to the next level. Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is scheduled to take place between 21-23 January 2019 at Varanasi which will be inaugurated by PM Modi himself with the aim that it would be culminating into one big Republic Day celebration where India’s might will be displayed for the World to see. Ambassadors of a whopping 71 countries have witnessed the preparations of the world’s largest religious gathering and even unfurled the national flag of their respective countries on the banks of Triveni. The state government is confident that representatives of 192 countries will visit the Kumbh Mela which is down to the sustained efforts of the UP government in marketing Kumbh on foreign shores and sending formal invitations to 192 countries. A special area has been designated in the Kumbh mela where the flags of 192 countries will be hoisted. The Uttar Pradesh tourism department held road shows in Berlin, Amsterdam, Lisbon, Dublin and Copenhagen. In November last year, a special stall dedicated to the Kumbh Mela was also stationed at the World Travel Mart in London. Special Brochures have been carefully curated in various languages like French, Spanish, German etc containing an in-depth knowledge about Kumbh and its history and significance. The government is also trying to webcast the Kumbh proceedings to 25 countries. On the cultural side, Ram-Leela will be staged by International Ballet artists throughout the duration of the mela. Out of the police workforce, 150 multilingual policemen will be stationed to cater to the needs of the foreign visitors. For the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, NRIs and delegates are expected to travel from Delhi to Prayagraj and hence the Indian Railways have introduced four special trains between Prayagraj and New Delhi. From Prayagraj, the delegates and NRIs will then be taken to New Delhi for the Republic Day celebrations. The four trains will leave between 7:50 PM and 12:50 AM on January 24 to Delhi with the last train expected to reach Delhi by 1:30 PM on January 25.
Over 130 million people are expected to attend the Kumbh Mela and the BJP ruled governments both at the state and the centre are pulling out all stops to ensure a smooth mela. PM Modi recently has been questioned repeatedly about what has his government for Hindus? PM Modi has yet again, answered his critics in style in what promises to be a riveting festival. While Rahul Gandhi through his desperate lies about the Rafale deal might try to divert the attention but PM Modi is all set to pull the rug from under his feet by organising Kumbh Mela in the most magnificent way possible.