Kumbh Mela — the largest congregation of people on the planet — is hyped as an occasion to showcase Uttar Pradesh to a global audience.
Millions are expected to visit the Maha Kumbh — which happens every 12 years — during the 55-day Hindu pilgrimage between January 14 and March 10, when Hindus gather at the Ganges, Godavari and Kshipra rivers, where bathing for purification from sin is considered especially efficacious.
The festival premises has been increased manifold; it now encompasses 193.5 hectares. Other than the bridges and flyovers that have been built in Allahabad, 18 pontoon bridges have been constructed to ease the flow of people converging at the sangam area, Arail and Jhoosi.
The Kumbh area will function as an independent district and 12,000 police constables, 107 traffic inspectors, 12 additional Superintendents of Police (SPs), 16 assistant SPs and 50 deputy SPs will lead the security network. There will also be central police forces watching every inch of the Kumbh area. Furthermore, 85 CCTV cameras are being installed.
With crowds expected to be much bigger than the last Kumbh — in 2001, which saw 11 million people converge on Lucknow on Makar Sankranti (January 14) and 35 million on Mauni Amavasya (February 10) — the government is making arrangements not only to take in all the pilgrims but also ensure all bathing days run smoothly, says A.C. Sharma, director general of police.
The government expects about 90,000 passengers to commute to and from the Kumbh each day. The UP State Road Transport Corporation has built five temporary bus stations, and will run 6,008 additional buses, augmenting the fleet of 892 buses that normally service the Kumbh area. Indian Railways will operate 750 special trains to ferry devotees.
The Kumbh is also 11 days longer this year, and people will congregate at the site for 55 days.
The number of parking areas has been increased to 99 from 44 for the Ardh Kumbh of 2007.
For the first time, special emphasis is being laid on proper signage, while nearly 156.2 kilometres of temporary roads have been laid. The water authority has made provision for 80,000 kilolitres of potable water and laid 550 kilometres of temporary pipelines.
With inclement weather and other concerns also to be taken into account this year, the state government has made efforts to provide uninterrupted power to the site through 73 substations. There are 22,000 temporary street lights in the festival area. Provision of proper health and hygiene facilities are also a priority.