In an attempt to score major political points in the Hindi heartland before the general elections, the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh is leaving no stones unturned to make Kumbh 2019 – a religious congregation at Prayagraj – a grand success. Although the Kumbh or Mahakumbh is celebrated once every 12 years, the present edition is an Ardh-Kumbh (half Kumbh), celebrated every six years, which the government is referring to as, or perhaps has renamed to, Kumbh 2019.
The preparation for the two-month festival has brought immense infrastructural development for the erstwhile city of Allahabad. Roads have widened, encroachments razed, dividers constructed, and half a dozen flyovers built as part of making the town commute friendly.
It seems that CM Adityanath, who has earned notoriety by not acting strongly in BRD Medical Hospital case and the recent Bulandshahr murder, keeps religious issues very close to his heart, as his dedication for the Kumbh knows no bounds and this has become fairly visible to the residents.
I hope and pray that his care stays intact even after the two-month festival or after the general elections.
Religious Artworks Aplenty
The Yogi government is literally painting the town with religious scriptures and artworks; walls, flyovers, even trees have been coloured in order to contribute to the beautification of the city!
Chaurahas (intersections) are being rebuilt and armed with artefacts. Street lights, LED screens and CCTVs are a common sight every few hundred meters. Police officials can be spotted every nook and corner of the Mela area.
Screens display directions, cautions and important dates for the upcoming fest.
What deserves special mention is the razing of several land encroachments held by temples, mosques and families for the Kumbh, even though doing so invites the risk of losing potential voters.
Live CCTV footage is monitored by the police officials in the control centre in the mela area, inaugurated recently by Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself. Add to that, the NSG and NDRF’s mock drills in pursuit of safety preparations for a potential gathering of crores of people over the weeks and months ahead.
Although a lot of work is yet to be completed, the developmental projects in the city have never looked this promising. Every year the Magh Mela organised in the month of January and February brings tents and make-shift infrastructure to the mela area, but this time an entire city is being made suitable and presentable specifically for the Kumbh. With a budget of Rs 4,200 crores, there’s almost nothing that seems impossible.
Besides the religious congregation Kumbh, the city’s importance under the Yogi government can be largely credited to the fact that the Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya and two cabinet ministers in the state government – Sidharth Nath Singh and Nand Kumar Gupta – belong to Prayagraj and hold a large voter base among the public. The political undercurrents are hard to miss.
What About Problems of Residents?
The downside to the the heavy and consistent construction work in the past one year is the toll it has taken on the city’s air quality, which is at its worst. Add to it, the traffic mismanagement, occurring mainly due to the lack of coordination between the city administration and the mela administration.
Traffic jams and smog have become as regular and as common as the sight of posters having PM Modi/CM Adityanath/Dy CM Maurya’s face on it.
It is only obvious that developmental projects come at the cost of causing inconvenience to the public.
With only two weeks left for the fest to start, the work is yet to see its end. Deadlines have been extended at least thrice. The chief minister himself has conducted many visits to the city to ensure that the work is completed on time.
Nonetheless, transformation and modernisation of Prayagraj in a span of less than two years is a new sight. Hope it is here to stay.
(The author is a final year law student in the University of Allahabad and an aspiring journalist. All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)
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