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Sunday, September 26, 2021

CAG punchs holes in Kumbh mela management, UP govt says will respond

Auditor highlighted issues of waste disposal and crowd monitoring during 2019 event.

Written by Maulshree Seth | Lucknow |
Updated: August 22, 2021 1:30:04 am
Kumbh mela, kumbh mela management, CAG, UP government, UP news, up news today, indian express, indian express newsKumbh Mela, a major Hindu pilgrimage event, takes place every 12 years in Prayagraj. (File)

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has found several faults in the UP government’s management for 2019 Kumbh in Prayagraj, ranging from discrepancies in the utilisation of funds to poor disposal of solid waste to holes in crowd management.

An official spokesperson of the UP government said the respective departments would look into the concerned sections of the report and would then respond.

The CAG’s 2018-2019 report on general and social sector that was tabled in the Assembly on Thursday said the issue of municipal solid waste (MSW) management was not effectively addressed as the solid waste processing plant remained inoperative before and during the entire Kumbh Mela period leading to massive accumulation of scrapheap and posing a “serious health hazard”.

It said that even before the Kumbh began a massive scrapheap of MSW weighing 3,61,136 metric tonnes (MT) was accumulated at Banswar solid waste processing plant site and it further piled up during January 2019 to March 2019 period by an additional collection of 52,727 MT of MSW.

“Improper management of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) causes environmental pollution and is a source of infection and therefore, management of solid waste generated during Kumbh Mela was of utmost importance,” the CAG report said.

Stating that the Banswar solid waste processing plant was inoperative since October 2018, i.e., before the start of Kumbh Mela, the CAG, in its report, said that this resulted in municipal solid waste collected from the Kumbh Mela area and Prayagraj city during Kumbh being dumped at the processing plant site without any processing. “Thus, scrapheap of unprocessed MSW in the vicinity of Kumbh Mela area remained a health hazard with serious ramifications vis-à-vis pollution of soil, water and air,” the CAG observed.

The UP government in its reply to the CAG said that the scrapheap was about 16 km away from the nearest Kumbh Mela area and the MSW was lying inside the premise of Banswar plant and therefore it did not pose a direct risk to the public health.

The CAG, however, said: “The fact remains that the Banswar plant remained inoperative during Kumbh Mela. Further, the state government was yet to make arrangements (May 2020) for disposal of collected MSW at Banswar plant, which is situated at an air distance of merely 4-5 km from the Kumbh Mela area due to which the pilgrims, who visited Kumbh Mela area remained at risk.”

The CAG also stated in its report that drone cameras procured by the state government for effective crowd management in the Kumbh Mela were not put to use and remained idle.

Pointing out that the office of Deputy Inspector General of Police (Kumbh) procured 10 drone cameras in January 2019 at a cost of Rs 32.50 lakh for scanning of articles for safety purposes, the CAG report said that none of the 10 drone cameras was utilised in Kumbh Mela “because on deployment, it was found that picture quality of the camera was not suitable for monitoring real-time crowd movement”.

As the issue could not be resolved in time, all the cameras remained idle during Kumbh Mela and “the envisaged crowd management was not carried out through these drone cameras,” the CAG stated.

In its reply to the CAG, the UP government said that while three large drones and 10 small-size drones were procured, it was found that the quality of the images captured by 10 small drones was not up to the mark and, therefore, the supplier was asked to identify and remove the problem.

However, the CAG observed: “The (UP government’s) reply was not tenable, as the replacement of the drone cameras did not take place during Kumbh Mela period.”

The CAG also found that in violation of the Government of India guidelines for utilising State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF), the UP government diverted Rs 65.87 crore from SDRF to “procure rescue equipment for Kumbh Mela”. “This should have been met from the budget provision of the state government,” it added.

Recommends SOPs for future procurements, improving mela infran The CAG recommended that since Magh Mela, Kumbh Mela and Maha Kumbh Mela are organised at fixed intervals, the UP government may therefore consider framing norms and standards in respect of quantity and quality of the infrastructure and services required for the visiting pilgrims.

The CAG also recommended that the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for procurement of goods/materials within the framework of government rules and regulations should also be devised and release funds from a single budget head to keep effective vigil over the sanctions and expenditure against the same.

It also recommended that the waste management infrastructure and facilities should be augmented at an appropriate scale to provide a safe, hygienic and healthy environment for the visitors during melas.

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