Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat on Sunday asserted that Kumbh Mela will be held in its "divine form" at Haridwar in 2021 despite the practical problems arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Sunday, Rawat attended a meeting with office-bearers of the Akhil Bharatiya Akhada Parishad (ABAP) regarding the preparations for the 2021 Kumbh Mela, which will begin on January 14.
"The extent of the Kumbh Mela will depend on the status of the COVID-19 at that time. The suggestions of the ABAP and the religious fraternity will also be taken in the decisions, which will be taken according to the prevailing situation. The efforts of the state government will be aimed at ensuring that the devotees do not face any inconvenience," Rawat said, adding the Kumbh Mela works are being reviewed periodically. "Departmental secretaries have been directed to monitor the works under progress consistently. Chief secretary has also been directed to review the situation in 15 days."
Kumbh Mela officer Deepak Rawat said that most of the works will be completed by December 15. "Work on nine new ghats (river banks), eight bridges and roads being built for the Kumbh Mela is nearing completion. Special focus is on cleanliness. Works are also being done consistently on drinking water facilitation, parking facility and removal of encroachments," he said.
As per a release by the Chief Minister's Office, Urban Development Minister Madan Kaushik said that well-planned arrangements will be made to ensure the devotees face no problem during the Kumbh Mela.
ABAP head Mahant Narendra Giri assured the government that the body will fully cooperate with the state government for the successful organization of the Kumbh Mela.
Kaushik said that 35 to 50 lakh people are expected to take the holy dip in Ganga daily during the Kumbh Mela 2021.
The Kumbh Mela has been established as one of the holiest events in India. It hosts millions of pilgrims every year. The last Kumbh Mela was held in 2019 in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh. The pandemic has disrupted the tourism sector of Uttarakhand, and in this situation, Kumbh Mela holds great significance for the stakeholders of the tourism industry.
According to reports, the preparation work for the event has begun and the state government is yet to decide a cap on the number of visitors each day, to follow the social distancing norms. A travel agent from Haridwar says that though the preparations are underway and the dates for the event have been announced, the pattern forms an anomaly this time. “We used to start to take bookings six months before the Kumbh Mela, but zero bookings have been registered so far,” he said.
The tourism prospects for Kumbh dangle between the government’s claim of holding the Kumbh at an equally grand level and stakeholders’ predicament. The president of Taxi Maxi Transport Association Haridwar, Girish Bhatia said, “Much depends on the government as Kumbh Mela nears its commencement. We have witnessed the preparations beginning a year before the Maha Kumbh. However, the government claims to organize it magnificently this time but the groundwork does not imply the same. The work remains confined to the papers.” Firstly, he stressed a vaccine to be of utmost importance and secondly, the crucial role of the government, state as well as the center, regarding the tourist turn out. Availability of the train routes and bus services play an important factor.
The work for the Kumbh Mela has started, but the travel industry finds it skeptical to assure any projection. Ankit, another travel agent from Haridwar said, “Everything stays stagnant due to Covid and no guidelines have been issued by the government, which usually were announced three to four months before the Kumbh. The conditions governing the Kumbh this time would be the driving force and which stay unannounced right now.”
Since there is fear within the public, the grandeur for the Kumbh cannot be estimated as usual. The recurring narrative stressed the routes that would be made available for train and bus services to operate for Haridwar. The Kumbh Mela will definitely draw a crowd, amplifying the business in that area, but the absence of a structured roadmap even two months before the mega event has kept the stakeholders skeptical.