Updated: May 29, 2021 7:38:43 am
EVEN as the second Covid wave raged across the nation, the Uttarakhand government officially announced that on the three key days of the Kumbh, April 12, 13, and 14, a total of 49 lakh devotees had taken a dip in the Ganga at Har Ki Pauri and linked ghats in Hardwar.
Under fire for this gathering — the Uttarakhand High Court last week called holding Kumbh a “mistake” — officials in the state government and the district administration, after a detailed review, have assessed that the attendance figure was almost 70% down, to an estimated 15 lakh, for these three days.
When contacted, Sanjay Gunjyal, Inspector General of Police, Kumbh Mela, said: “The footfall on April 12 was only 21 lakh; on April 13 around 3 lakh and on April 14, about 12 lakh.”
This is sharply lower than what the government had claimed earlier. In April, it had said over 31 lakh people took a dip on the second shahi shan on April 12; 4.5 lakh on April 13; and over 13.5 lakh on April 14.
Asked about this significant downward revision, Gunjyal told The Indian Express: “The earlier data was based on headcount. But the data for April 12 had been miscalculated by adding data of other days as well.”
Senior officials said the actual crowd was much lower, at about 15 lakh, compared to Gunjyal’s revised estimate of 36 lakh.
This, they said, is based on a review of all key mobility indicators, which include occupancy figures for all hotels in the district, vacancies in registered parking lots, cellphone presence accessed from mobile towers, and passenger traffic for vehicles and on all trains to and from Hardwar.
On April 1, when the Kumbh formally started, there were 626 active cases in the district, that number went up to 11,075 on April 30 — there were 90 deaths in April.
Consider the key mobility findings:
- Between April 10-15, a total of 9.55 lakh people came to Haridwar using cars, two-wheelers, buses.
- Less than 40,000 came by trains during this period. Railway data shows that the special Kumbh train, announced for April 1, started only on April 12 and departed with only 140 passengers onboard against a capacity of 1,200. The next day, the train was cancelled because of low traffic. A total of only 38 trains (19 Up and 19 Down) ran during the Kumbh as compared to over 100 in 2010.
- A total of 10.95 lakh people checked into the 537 hotels and the 260 dharamshalas for the five-day period.
- Total number of out-of-state cellphones logged in as per all mobile tower data between April 11 and 14: 1.68 lakh.
- Mela Officer Deepak Rawat said: “Clearly, the footfall was much lower than what has been presented. It was negligible in all ghats (there are 107 ghats in the mela area) other than Har Ki Pauri.”
“Even if we assume that the 5 lakh population of Haridwar municipal area took the holy dip, total strength is still less than the figure claimed by the Government,” said a senior official. Taking even this into account, the crowd numbers do not swell beyond 21 lakh, the official said.
Sources said one reason for showing large crowds could be political. While outgoing Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat did not want to comment on this, Uttarakhand Congress Senior Vice-President Suryakant Dhasmana said the state government exaggerated the footfall data to show it successfully organised a grand mela and to justify utilisation of the budget.
“The footfall was less than the figures claimed by the government. With such exaggerated data, the state government tried to cover-up its failure in making preparations, essential to protect devotees from Covid,” he said.
When contacted, Cabinet Minister and government spokesperson Subodh Uniyal said figures of footfall announced by administration were correct. “But it is also true that footfall was less on shahi snan this time as compared to previous Kumbh. Common people came in very less number, mainly saints who stayed during Kumbh,” he said.
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