Blending Tech With Governance: How CM Yogi Adityanath Is Dragging Kumbh Mela Management Into The 21st Century

Arihant Pawariya

Jan 08, 2019, 08:08 AM | Updated 08:07 AM IST

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath unveiling logo of Kumbh 2019 on 12 December 2017 (Image credit: CM Adityanath’s official Facebook page)
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath unveiling logo of Kumbh 2019 on 12 December 2017 (Image credit: CM Adityanath’s official Facebook page)
  • Four ways in which the Uttar Pradesh administration is employing tech-based solutions to deliver a Kumbh experience like never before.
  • As millions of Hindu devotees are currently busy planning their itinerary for Prayagraj, the Uttar Pradesh government led by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is leaving no stone unturned to make 2019 Kumbh a bhavya (grand) and divya (divine) experience for them. It’s not just the scale of preparations that’s many times bigger than 2013, the government, in a Sisyphean sort of quest, seems committed to rise to the herculean challenge that is organising a Kumbh mela.

    More importantly, it is laying a great emphasis on blending technology with governance like never before. This way, it hopes to elevate the act of organising a Kumbh worthy of 21st century management. For this purpose, the state government has roped in services of 18 young professional management consultants on a contract basis. They are working with over 20 high-ranking government officials who constitute Kumbh Mela Pradhikaran (organising committee) and are helping them in employing technology on various aspects of governance during the mela.

    Chiefly, the government is using technology in four ways.

    First, to stop pilferage in civil supplies such as wheat, rice, sugar, kerosene oil, etc. During the mela, lakhs of people make Prayagraj their temporary home. To accommodate them, the government sets up a mini city, divided into many sectors, along the rivers Ganga and Yamuna. Then the government allots them land in sectors and gives temporary ration cards with which they can take their share of ration from fair price shops (FPS) which get the supply from mela godowns which in turn get their supply from Food Corporation of India (FCI).

    But everything is not hunky dory in the process. There is common perception that not all the food supply reaches the intended beneficiaries either because of diversion or inefficiency.

    So, this time, the government has incorporated an inventory management system to ensure clear tracking of number of sacks coming to mela godowns and going to FPS. The earlier method of keeping track on thick registers and writing records manually is being replaced with a QR code system. Each and every sack of ration coming from the FCI will have QR code stamped on it which would be scanned at every stage, first at the godown and then at FPS as well.

    Second, the government is going full hog to make it a swachh Kumbh. It has installed 1,22,500 portable toilets throughout the mela area at regular intervals.

    But merely installing the toilets doesn’t necessarily mean that people will use them. Toilets need to be kept clean. There must be round the clock lighting especially in the dark so that they are easier to use.

    Majority of the toilets are installed by Lalloo Ji and Sons, a private company which has hired one sweeper to look after 10 toilets. For every cluster of toilets, there are five supervisors which ensure attendance of sweepers through mobile application by scanning QR code on ID cards of sweepers. The sweepers get paid Rs 295 per day.

    That’s not it. To add another layer of check, and to oversee the work of sweepers hired by the private company to clean its toilets, the government has given a contract to another vendor to ensure that sweepers are doing the job. This vendor has mapped each and every toilet and assigned its own force of workers to check if the toilets are being maintained properly. How? Its volunteers will carry out regular checks of toilets. They are armed with a mobile application which allows them to tick various options for why a toilet assigned to them is not working: is lighting proper inside the toilet, is it clean, or is it smelly, is water available, etc.

    The feedback goes directly to a central management system set up for this very purpose. Then the information is relayed to sweepers and their supervisors with directions to attend to the toilet they are not maintaining properly.

    Third, the government is scaling up its lost and found initiative big time. But more crucially, using the technology to make the whole process much more effective.

    Earlier, there used to be just two centres in the whole mela area to report about lost items and relatives. There used to be serpentine lines of desperate people who would have lost someone outside these centres. These centres used to blare the names of lost people throughout the mela area creating unnecessary panic.

    This year, the government has not only increased the number of lost and found centres in mela area to 12 (and three coming up in the city) and increased their sizes, it has also made them digital. Three big LCD screens will be put up outside each centre. Public announcement will not be done throughout the area but only in and around the centres. Names and photos of lost persons would be beamed throughout the city on 36 screens. Now, one doesn’t need to stand in queue for hours to report about missing people, they can just do it via an app.

    While some may snigger at people getting lost in a mela in times of smartphones and Google maps but when one crore people gather in an area spanning few hundred acres especially near the Sangam where people go for a dip and can’t take their phones with them in the water, it is very easy to get lost in a place that’s completely unknown to you. The situation is more frightening for children and women, especially the poor, who don’t have access to phones. Nor are they literate enough to find their way home without help from their more educated relatives.

    Fourth is the way the government is using technology for land allotment. As described in the article before, lakhs of people come and make Prayagraj their temporary home by pitching tents along Ganga and Yamuna. But they can’t pitch tents as per their wishes. The land is allotted to them by the government as per availability. Older, more prominent (or closer to the government in power) organisations are given priority. Hence, every sanstha is allotted a piece of land according to its might and needs.

    This is not very different from how hotel managers allot a room to customers on basis of availability. Along those lines, the government has setup an online system which at the back-end shows availability of land in the mela area map and executives can then allot it to a sanstha (organisation) on the basis of their needs.

    Making this online has made the process of allotment much easier since it’s easily verifiable now if an organisation is old or new (whether it participated in last Kumbh or not). Once the land is allotted to a sanstha, a suvidha parchi (facility slip) will be generated which the organisation can give to construction contractors hired by the government to build tents.

    Apart from these four initiatives on the tech front, the government is trying to ensure sound telecom operations in the mela area where signal remains weak due to lack of towers. To overcome this, there will be 44 temporary telecom towers on wheels (erected on back of trucks) with all service providers able to provide their services.

    Additionally, through these towers, the government is working on making all 8,000 acres of mela area land a free wifi zone. There won’t be any charges for first 30 minutes but after the free quota is over, charges will apply.

    On the security front, over 500 cameras have been installed in the mela area with feed of all of them going to an Integrated Command and Control Centre. Sitting in one place, security officers can do surveillance of the entire mela. Specialised cameras have been installed near the Sangam which will be used for crowd control and analytics. These cameras will generate alerts as soon as crowd density in a particular area crosses the specified limit. These alerts will be sent to traffic police which will then work to change the pedestrian movement in highlighted patches.

    By extensively employing technology in food supply to ensuring all round availability of clean toilets to land allotment to lost and found initiative to crowd control and security, the saffron-clad Yogi is giving a lesson in digital governance that would put many foreign educated, suit-donning (ex) chief ministers to shame.

    An Uttar Pradesh chief minister is setting the bar high on digital governance. Who would’ve thought so!

    Arihant Pawariya is Senior Editor, Swarajya.

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