A whopping 1,22,000 toilets and 40,000 urinals have been built across 3200 hectares of space to cater to pilgrims visiting this year’s Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj of Uttar Pradesh. The largest human congregation in the world that began on 15th January 2019 (Makar Sankranti) and ends on 4th March, 2019 (Mahashivratri) is likely to see around 130 million devotees this year.
According to Chief Development Officer (CDO), Prayagraj (Allahabad), Mr. Samuel Paul, the district administration has focused on three areas to ensure that sanitation is maintained at all levels and throughout the 48-day period of the Kumbh Mela 2019:
- Establishment of Toilets: The Health Department of UP has put in place temporary facilities of 1,22,000 toilets and 40,000 urinals. Based on the soil structure on which they have been erected either septic tanks or syntax tanks have been fixed for collection of faecal sludge. The construction and maintenance of these toilets has been contracted to vendors.
While approximately 10,000 safai karmacharis have been appointed by the Health department, the Swachh Bharat Mission team has appointed around 1000 gangs who are monitoring toilet usage and general cleanliness of Kumbh area. Each of the gangs comprises of 10 members, one of them being the leader. They take rounds of the Kumbh area allocated to them and guide people, ensuring they use toilets and dustbins for waste such as tea cups, flowers or cloth.
- Solid and Liquid Waste Management: In keeping with the ban imposed on plastic of less than 50 microns by UP government in October 2018, focus is given to making this year’s Kumbh Mela plastic free. Further, as many as 20,000 dustbins have been placed across the Kumbh area for the convenience of visitors.
- IEC Activities: Around 1500 swachhagrahis have been trained and deployed to monitor and educate pilgrims on safe sanitation practices for the duration of the Mela. Hoardings with sanitation messages about using toilets, refraining for using plastic, the need to protect The Ganga from pollutants, have been put up in strategic places within the Kumbh area to appeal to the people to keep the area clean. Further as many as 100 LED screens have been installed in main public gathering areas in Kumbh area and the town where SBM-G messages are screened at frequent intervals.
Swachhagrahis: While 1300 of them are from Prayagraj, 200 best performing swachhagrahis have come from 23 different districts of UP. The Mela area has been divided into 5 operational zones which are further divided into 20 sectors and 36 circles. Each circle has 40-45 swachhagrahis headed by a leader who monitors their duty timings and work performed.
To record attendance a Swachh Attendance App has been introduced. Each swachhagrahis has been issued an ID card with a QR code. The Appt displays his/her bio-data and effectively captures the GPS of the person, helping the leader to locate any of them at any time. In a sense, every swachhagrahi has been geo-tagged and this helps the SBM-G block coordinator to monitor attendance and the Gram Secretaries to monitor their work and attendance.
All Swachhagrahis have been accommodated within the Kumbh area and provided with bedding, clean drinking water, all 3 meals and swachh toilets. Besides, they get prothsahan dhanrashi (motivational incentive) of Rs. 500 per day. They work on two shifts (2 AM to 10 AM and 4 PM to 12 midnight) and 24 hours on the 6 peak days of the Mela (Makar Sankranti (15th January), Paush Purnima (21st January), Mauni Amavasya (4th February), Basant Panchami (10th February), Maghi Poornima (19th February) and Maha Shivratri (4th March).
Progress thus far: “For the first time ever, there are no signs of open defecation, owing to the efforts of the Health Department and the Swachhagrahis,” the CDO said. Commenting on the sanitation aspects, a visitor from New Zealand who had been at the Mela the previous year said that he saw a remarkable difference in sanitation and other facilities such as drinking water, stalls, etc.
Owing to the efforts of the District Sanitation Committee and District War Room of SBM-G, the event can be considered a grand success, particularly going by the two peak days on 15th January and 21st January, Mr. Samuel Paul said. “Our Swachhagrahis are toiling hard day and night to make it a Swachh, Bhavya and Divya Kumbh Mela,” he added.