Disheartened by rain, ‘admn apathy’, kalpvasis pack their bags midway
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Almost two days of continuous rain, combined with alleged apathy of the administration, seems to have shaken the faith of many devotees, including some kalpvasis, and they are leaving the Kumbh Mela.
It had rained heavily in the Kumbh Mela area since the afternoon of February 15 and continued till Saturday night.
The administration, however, claimed it was making efforts to bring things back on track over the next couple of days, while maintaining that kalpvasis were determined to stay the entire period.
But quite a few differed. Kedar Nath Jha and his wife from Supaul in Bihar had come to the Kumbh on January 14 and planned to stay till February 27 to complete the kalpvas. "But now I have got tickets for tomorrow. How long can one stay in this stench? The tents are ruined, power supply has become erratic and getting even basic items like wood for setting up a bonfire or kerosene is difficult," said Jha, a retired government school teacher, who has been staying at his camp in Sector-9.
There were an estimated 500 kaplvasis in Jha's enclave. But a look around showed that the place was almost empty. "Many people had paid around Rs 5,000 — double of what we had paid. But their tents simply got swamped by knee-deep water. At present only around 100 are present," he said.
However, Savitri, staying in the same enclave, is determined to stay till February 25 for the Maghi Purnima snan (bath). "I have developed pain in my waist due to the cold. But I told my son that there are only sevenodd days left; so I'd better wait rather than breaking the sankalp (vow) of kalpvas," she said, washing utensils barely a few feet from the row of temporary latrines, overflowing with human excreta.
Jha said, "Even women are forced to defecate in the open. Beizzati mehsoos karte hue yahan se jaa rahe hain (We are leaving feeling humiliated)."
In another kalpvasi enclave in Sector-7, Satish Pandey from Sitapur had all belongings packed and was ready to leave. "Our tents were blown away. All our provisions, beddings and everything have become wet. We are leaving with whatever we have," said Pandey. Around a third from his enclave, which housed an estimated 1,500 kalpvasis, have already left.
"For two days, there was no power, no proper arrangement for food and our tents were damaged. We are reviving everything. But around 150 kalpvasis in our tents have left. They might return around the Maghi Purnima snan," said Bachchu Yadav, an office-bearer in the camp of Vishwa Shanti Sewa Charitable Trust of Acharya Devki Nandan Thakur, in Sector-8.
R K Shukla of Vishwa Gayatri Parivar camp, located on Sangam Lower Road in Sector-9, said: "We had books worth around Rs 8 lakh here. All are damaged with water flooding our tents. We wanted to stay here till February 25. But now we are ready to wind up, waiting for formal orders from our Rishikesh headquarters." The entry to the camp, as well as other adjacent camps, remained waterlogged.
State PWD Minister Shivpal Yadav, who visited Allahabad, gave directions for improving the roads within four days. PWD's principal secretary visited the Kumbh area and asked the officials concerned to get the most important roads, around 33 km in length, back in shape within two days. Remaining 64 km of roads were to be improved in four days. The PWD, however, had laid down a total of 158 km of roads, using checkered plates.
Health and Sanitation Department, as well as Jal Nigam, too claimed that they were on the job. The Health Department has got around 800 men sprinkling bleaching powder and other chemicals to reduce the stench. JCBs were being used to lift the waste. The Jal Nigam claimed it was ready with more than 100 pumps to prevent any waterlogging.
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