Higher budget and bigger ground: This year's Kumbh Mela is set to begin with a bang
To keep the river as clean as possible, the National Green Tribunal has banned commercial activity within 100 m of Ganga between Bijnore district and Unnao-Kanpur region.
Duration: 49 days, from Makar Sankranti on January 15 to Shivratri on March 4
Expected Footfall: 12-14 crore
Size of Mela Ground: 3,200 hectares
Overall Budget: Rs 4,200 cr
Rs 509 crore for 10 flyovers
Rs 300 crore on beautification of 32 squares
Rs 298 crore on improvement of 34 roads
Rs 280 crore on sanitation and cleanliness
Rs 1,388 on widening of 116 roads and expansion of 1,291 parking lots
Lock, Stock & Barrel
22 Pontoon bridges being built across the Yamuna
1.25 lakh Toilets at Kumbh site. Pink toilets for women and special ones for differently abled pilgrims
141 km Chequered plate roads being built over sand
85 Holding areas for crowd management
800 Special trains to Prayagraj
1,000 Swachhta Praharis to ensure cleanliness
94 Parking lots
Beyond the Big Dip
Akshay Vat, a sprawling banyan tree, is considered both ancient and sacred. It is in the Allahabad fort precincts and is expected to be a big draw.
Sanskriti Gram, spread over 7 acres in Arail area, has 300 artists from Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai and Varanasi, among others.
Facilities for yoga and naturopathy as well as cycling and water sports.
Chopper rides to get a bird’s-eye view of the pilgrimage.
Clean Flows the Ganga?
To keep the river as clean as possible, the National Green Tribunal has banned commercial activity within 100 m of Ganga between Bijnore district and Unnao-Kanpur region. The state government has closed all tanneries in Kanpur and Unnao from December 15 to March 15. The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court has permitted two tanneries — Mirza International and Rahman Industries — to continue operations on the condition that they will not discharge effluents into the Ganga. Sisamau drain, which discharges 14 crore litres of untreated sewage to Ganga every day, has been diverted to Jajmau sewage treatment plant. Sugar mills in UP have been asked to ensure zero-effluent discharge in the Ganga basin.
Colours of Faith
Every square and public building in Prayagraj has been painted with figures of deities and mythological symbols. Although locals are temporarily inconvenienced, the city is benefiting from new flyovers and roads and widening of existing ones, dividers, stations and over-bridges. The fact that Prayagraj is part of Smart City project is adding to the developmental work. A new Prayag Ghat Railway Station has been built for special trains.
Law and Holy Order
At the Integrated Command Control Centre, 120 experts will work round the clock on surveillance and crowd management. Around 1,150 CCTV cameras and 135 watch towers will cover the area. The mela site will have 40 police stations, 62 police posts and 40 fire brigade centres. There will be 22,000-24,000 personnel from police and paramilitary forces.
KP Singh, DIG, Kumbh, says, “Apart from policing, UP Police will work as guide and facilitator for pilgrims. Soft-skill training is being imparted to all police officials.” Artificial intelligence for crowd management and surveillance will be used for the first time in Kumbh. This will help the police assess crowd density at a particular spot, which would help in deciding their next course of action. High-definition cameras will also be used to trace any vehicle at any time.
Three types of software will be put to use.
1. Crowd analytics for surveillance of entry/ exit points and bathing ghats. This will send advance information about a place that could get overcrowded.
2. Facial recognition software to trace people with the help of a photograph.
3. Number plate detection software to track the movement of a vehicle captured on any of the 1,150 cameras.
For testing preparedness and response, police and security forces are conducting mock drills, simulating multiple scenarios: stampede, terror attack, drowning, bomb blast and biological attacks.
Rs 40,000 a Night Tent
Apart from bed and breakfast accommodation for visitors, luxury tents are being built. A 900 sq ft tent suite of Indraprastham City, with two bedrooms and a living room, could cost Rs 40,000 a night. A main attraction is a “personal Ganga ghat” with each tent. These luxury tents are pitched for the well-heeled during Kumbh 2019. Apart from Indraprastham, other tent cities are Kalp Vriksh, Kumbh Canvas and Vedic Tent City. Tents and dorms start from Rs 650.
Akharas Come Marching
There are 13 participating akharas. Most of them are categorised based on their deity: Shiv or Vishnu.
The Udaseen akhara is founded by Chandra Dev, son of Guru Nanak.
Kinnar Akhara — of transgender monastics —will participate for the first time in this Kumbh.
Peshwai is the traditional procession of akhara members on elephants, horses and chariots: monks affiliated to a particular akhara tour the city before they arrive at Kumbh site.
Each akhara has been allotted 45 minutes for the royal dip or shahi snan. Mahanirvani Akhara will take the first dip and Nirmal Akhara the last. Akhara Snan Ghat for shahi snan is being readied near the Sangam. Three prominent akharas have already reached the mela ground — Shri Panchdashnaam Juna Akhara, Shri Panchdashnaam Panchagni Akhara and Shri Panchdashnaam Aavahan Akhara.
Eat, Shop, Pray
About 375 shops and 48 milk booths will be part of the festival. A food court with 40 stalls is being readied with cuisine from almost all states. Ecofriendly practices such as the use of jute bags and terracotta utensils are encouraged.
Salve and Salvation
11 temporary hospitals — one with 100 beds and the others with 30 beds each — with 170 doctors and 100 nurses are coming up. Over 100 ambulances and four air ambulances will be standing by for emergency.