Kumbh venue gets facelift, but uncertainty over scale

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Written by Lalmani Verma | Haridwar | October 1, 2020 2:14:26 am

Renovation work at the Kumbh Mela site in Haridwar. A sum of Rs 320 crore has been sanctioned for several such projects at the site. (Express Photo)

With Uttarakhand reopening its borders for tourists and migrant workers, hundreds of labourers are busy giving the site of the Kumbh Mela a much-needed facelift.

The Kumbh Mela is to be held in Haridwar in 2021 after 11 years and will begin with the Shahi Snan on March 12. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works, and the administration is yet to take a call on the scale of the religious gathering. In April 14, 2010, when the shahi snan of the last Kumbh was held in Uttarakhand, a staggering 1.5 crore people had descended on the site of the Mela.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat recently indicated the possibility of numerically restricting the number of pilgrims in during the mela by issuing passes so that social distancing can be maintained.

An official said: “During the char dham yatra, around nine lakh pilgrims remain present in Haridwar on any given day. But this year, there are only a few hundred during the yatra in the city these days because of the Covid-19 pandemic. A similar trend is expected during the Kumbh Mela if the virus infection continues.”

The site of the Kumbh Mela is spread over 156 sq km across the districts of Haridwar, Dehradun and Pauri Garhwal and a total of 51 construction projects of a permanent nature are still on.

The lockdown had brought the construction to a halt, but work resumed with the first unlock.

Mela Officer Deepak Rawat said that development work worth Rs 320 crore was sanctioned, with 70 per cent completed and December 15 as the deadline.

Among the projects are the construction of seven bridges, various new roads, an “astha path”, the upgradation of police barracks, fire stations and bus station and the renovation of various ghats, he said.

Rawat said the planning of temporary structures was to be done earlier this year but will now be done now in February, according to the pandemic situation, and more budgets will be demanded accordingly.

After inaugurating several projects related to the Namami Gange mission in Uttarakhand via video conferencing on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that the visitors to the Haridwar Kumbh would experience a “clean and pure” Ganga.

Modi also referred to the beautification of the hundreds of ghats at Ganges and the development of a modern riverfront at Haridwar.

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