Variety

Management, Maha Kumbh style

Virendra Pandit | Updated on February 28, 2013 Published on February 28, 2013


How does one manage a human sea along a river! No surprise that Harvard Business School, among others, evinced interest in studying the organisation of the mammoth gathering at Maha Kumbh 2013 on the banks of the Ganga in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh. Without doubt the occasion holds important lessons for future managers.

Nearly 10 crore pilgrims, compared to eight crore during the Purna Kumbh twelve years ago, are estimated to take a holy dip during the 55-day event this year, says a senior health officer at the mela. “Our biggest challenge is how to manage the enormous quantities of human waste that accumulate daily... We also have to prevent any outbreak of epidemic,” he adds. About 45,000 toilets have been set up, and the challenge is to ensure uninterrupted water supply, sanitation and electricity, all for free.

Thanks to efficient management, Kumbhnagari, the temporary township set up near Allahabad, has remained a clean, largely polythene-free place, despite the enormous numbers of a floating population that has no stake in its upkeep. The great river itself, particularly at the Sangam — the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati — remains somewhat polluted along the 20-odd bathing ghats.

Compared to 2001, the Kumbh Mela area has increased from about 1,500 hectares to 2,000 hectares. The number of sectors increased from 11 to 14, and parking lots from 35 to 99. In fact, Allahabad city seems to overflow with human beings.

“There is hardly a household in the city — whether Hindu, Muslim, Christian or Sikh — which has not hosted some pilgrim acquaintances from near or far,” says a resident. The February 10 stampede at Allahabad railway station, in which nearly 40 perished, took many by surprise as the mela area remained incident-free despite brimming with 2-3 crore people.

The temporary township of Kumbhnagari has no fewer than 30 police stations, as many fire stations, 38 hospitals with 370 beds, and even courts and magistrates. Nearly 14,000 policemen, six ‘lost-and-found’ centres and 100 CCTVs have been deployed for crowd management. “It is a very prestigious posting for any administrator and bureaucrat in Uttar Pradesh to head the Kumbh Mela and prove his or her professional competence,” says an official.

To facilitate pilgrims’ progress, a 156-km road network and 18 temporary pontoon bridges across the river were built at the township. Set up two months ahead of the event, the township will eventually disappear until the next Kumbh comes around.

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Published on February 28, 2013
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