Prime Minister Modi’s message of cleanliness will be at display prominently and put to work during the Kumbh Mela.
If the execution matches the planning, we will witness the cleanest ever Kumbh in the history of modern India.
“Iss baar ka Kumbh divya aur bhavya hoga (The 2019 Kumbh [Mela] will be divine and grand),” Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath promised Prayagraj when he visited the city on Saturday (5 January).
Kumbh is a grand and divine mela (festival) in itself. It has been so for centuries. What will be different this time around is the level of preparation of the state government for management of the mela. And what better way to fulfill the promise of divyata (divinity) and bhavyata (grandeur) than to ensure this year’s mela is an epitome of swachhta.
This is one of the most important aspects of 2019 Kumbh management apart from unprecedented security and surveillance arrangements. Since Adityanath assumed charge in Uttar Pradesh, toilet coverage has improved drastically in the state from 47 per cent in April 2017 to around 80 per cent now by building more than 1.5 crore toilets. From a laggard in 2017, Uttar Pradesh is now a leader in building toilets in the country. The state government is bringing the same focus on sanitation to its preparations for Kumbh as well.
The administration has installed 122,500 toilets in the mela area. To put this in perspective, only 34,000 toilets were put up in Prayagraj during 2013 Kumbh and 64,000 in 2016 Kumbh in Ujjain.
Of the 122,500 toilets this year, there are 42,500 community toilets and 20,000 urinals in the mela area, another 20,000 toilets in parking areas and on the road sides, with maintenance and operations of these 82,500 toilets being managed by Lallooji & Sons, a private vendor that has been given the contract to put up these toilets. The company has hired thousands of sweepers and managers for this purpose.
“Each of us is assigned 10 toilets. We get paid Rs 295 per day. For every cluster, there are six managers who ensure our attendance by swiping the QR code on ID cards,” says one sweeper as he flips out his ID card to show this reporter. He hesitates to reveal his name but says he is from nearby Banda district. “I used to work in Palwal (Haryana) in a factory but came here because I got this job closer to home. Also, I was told, there won’t be much work here but that’s not true.”
To make sure there is all-round availability of clean toilets, the government has invited swachhagrahis (volunteers) who will check if the sweepers are cleaning the toilets. They will report any failings in the toilets with the help of a mobile application. This information will be relayed to the private vendor’s managers, who will make sure the sweepers tend to the toilets in question.
The remaining 40,000 toilets are in the hundreds of tents of devotees and, thus, private. As many as 11,000 workers of the state government’s Health and Sanitation Department will be looking after these toilets.
All the toilets are enabled with septic tank technology. These will be cleaned daily with the help of scores of vehicles using suction, and the sludge will be transported to sewage treatment plants for processing. Over 7 crore litres of sewage is expected to be treated daily.
During his visit to Prayagraj last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated two sewage infrastructure projects worth Rs 199.65 crore under the Namami Gange programme and laid the foundation for two projects worth Rs 1,671.59 crore.
Though it would take a couple of years for these new projects to become operational, the government has made enough arrangements for treatment of all the sewage expected to be generated during the mela. One hundred and fifty kilometres of HDPE sewage pipes have been laid out and an over 800-km length of sewage channels have been constructed. Work on laying 170 km in length of sewage lines in the city is also on the verge of completion.
“Out of the 20 sectors that the government has divided the mela area into, four sectors have good sewage infrastructure in place, except the area very close to the river. Forty open points have been identified in these four sectors (north of Yamuna), where sewage will be dumped into the sewer that is connected to the STP. Discharge of sectors in the Naini area, which lies south of Yamuna will be treated at STP in that area itself.
“Half of the sectors are in Jhusi area, which lies across the Ganga towards Varanasi, where all the akharas are also being housed. However, STP’s treatment capacity here is low. It is here that one of the big STPs that was inaugurated by PM Modi is coming up.
“To address the challenge of sewage in Jhusi, the administration is using bioremedial and modular techniques for treatment apart from deploying a new geotube technology that has the capacity to treat 3 million litres of water per day. The goal is to achieve zero discharge in Ganga and Yamuna during Kumbh,” an official from Kumbh Mela Pradhikaran told Swarajya on the condition of anonymity, as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
The government is installing over 20,000 dustbins with liner bags in the mela area – one dustbin at a distance of every 50 m. There are 120 tipper vehicles in 20 sectors. Prayagraj Nagar Nigam is getting another 240 vehicles for collecting waste throughout the city. These trucks will transport waste from dustbins to compactors, which will compact the waste and store. This will reduce logistical burden of transportation of waste to a great extent.
Forty such compactors, each with 40 tonnes of storage, are deployed in the mela. As soon as they are filled, the waste will be transported to a plant outside of the city. “Arrangement is such for waste disposal that once the trash is lifted from dustbins, it will touch the ground again only at its disposal site,” Prayagraj Commissioner Dr Ashish Kumar Goel assures.
To prevent any dereliction of duty, the global positioning system (GPS) has been put to work in all waste collection vehicles. Movement of every vehicle will be tracked from the multipurpose integrated command-and-control centre that has been set up as part of the Prayagraj smart city project.
Prime Minister Modi’s message of cleanliness will be at display prominently and put to work during the Kumbh Mela. If the execution matches the planning, we will witness the cleanest ever Kumbh in the history of modern India. The Yogi Adityanath government deserves two cheers for the preparation. Let’s reserve the third for implementation.