The Maharashtra government has set aside a Rs 2,500 crore budget and engaged 22 departments in micro and macro planning to provide water, power, lodging, security and transport in the Kumbh Mela starting in Nashik on July 14.
The focus of the effort is on cleanliness. Clean and Green Pilgrimage is the theme, with the state government pledging to carry forward the Prime Minister’s Swachch Bharat Abhiyan.
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For the last one-and-a-half months, some 10,000 to 15,000 people have volunteered in the drive undertaken by the administration to clean the river Godavari that runs through the temple towns of Nashik and Trimbakeshwar. The bigger challenge, however, will come when Nashik hosts more than one crore pilgrims until September.
Some 20,000 people, including those from 40 NGOs, will be deployed for the cleanliness drive as well as other services including crowd management.
In keeping with Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s drive “Say no to plastic”, cloth bags with environment-friendly messages will be distributed free to visitors.
More than 5,500 people have been recruited to maintain temporary, mobile and permanent toilets across the city and its outskirts for pilgrims. The 5,500-strong team will work on three shifts.
“From a possible terror strike to flooding, we have factored in all aspects and accordingly made our plans,” Nashik collector Deependra Singh Kushwaha said. “The five critical areas are security, water, power, transport and disaster management.”
The disaster management cell with its quick response team will be at hand for evacuation if necessary, equipped with rescue boats and divers. Pressure pumps are being installed to divert water along the ghats.
No tents will be allowed in the ghats.
Unlike Allahabad and Ujjain, where the Kumbh Mela takes place on the outskirts and the rivers have wider banks, the Nashik Kumbh is held in heart of the town. In both Allahabad and Ujjain, Kumbh Mela takes place during winters; in Nashik, it falls during the monsoon once every 12 years.
Around 20,000 police personnel will guard the city and its periphery, aided by paramilitary troops. The state administration has discussed with Devlali Cantonment plans to tackle any emergency.
Following a meeting with Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu, additional trains are being provided to Nashik. An additional railway platform has been put in place. A train will run every 20 minutes. The administration will deploy 3,000 to 3,400 buses.
“Kumbh Mela is a holy pilgrimage of sadhus. We look forward to their blessings… The government’s effort will be to ensure that no one who comes to the Kumbh Mela is inconvenienced,” Fadnavis said.