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Tech savvy Kumbh fails to attract large crowds

May 08, 2016 12:27 IST

Dips in the Kshipra river during Simhastha are said to wash away all sins!

Home-grown hi-tech applications, 6,000 close circuit cameras equipped with technologies of face detection, behaviour detection, go-pro cameras, ready-to-wear gadgets and drone security cameras have not been able to attract visitors to Kumbh Mela in Ujjain. This is the second occasion when the temple town is hosting the mega congregation of devotees under the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in Madhya Pradesh.

Before the event got under way, authorities, private hoteliers, research scholars and hi-tech developers were expecting a total of 50 million devotees to throng Ujjain.Scorching temperatures, however, have ensured that that number is well below expectation.

“Security and other services were the priorities of the government and we have gone hi-tech to ensure that everything is in order,” said Ravindra Pastor, commissioner of the revenue division and one of the key personnel earmarked to run the event.

The state has also developed two key mobile applications, “Simhastha 2016” and “Sarthi”, along with a dedicated website and ensured visibility on Facebook and Twitter. “Simhastha” has been downloaded by 10,000-50,000 people, yet actual numbers on the ground remain slim.

“Complaints and requests can be registered and addressed on a real-time basis. There are six layers of administrative officers ready to address any devotee complaints,” Mela officer Sujan Singh Rawat told Business Standard. Authorities here have been equipped with hi-tech devices and applications to manage a crowd of 10 million people at a time, spread across a sprawling 3,500 hectares.

The Ujjain Simhastha is one of the four legs of the Kumbh, each held on a rotation basis every 12 years. The other three being at Haridwar, Allahabad (Prayag) and Nashik.

Dips in the Kshipra river during Simhastha are said to wash away all sins. April 22, May 9 and May 21 are three dates that have been marked for the holy dip or “shahi snaan” this year.

“We were more vigilant this time as women seers were also expected to take part. Our app even has an emergency button,” said an official on condition of anonymity, “Traditionally, the Shaivas take the first dip, followed by Naga (naked) sadhus. They are followed by other hermits, monks, priests and devotees on foot. Thousands of devotees line both sides of the streets, said the official. “The technology set-up has been put in force keeping all their needs in mind. Even the dustbins here have GPS,” he added.

Asked how the authorities were planning to take care of people who come here minus mobile phones, Manish Vijayavargiya, an IT consultant to the Madhya Pradesh, said that the state police is always at hand to keep them safe.

Photograph: PTI

Shashikant Trivedi in Ujjain
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