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Headcount of Kumbh devotees taken by satellites

Exactly how many people visit the Mahakumbh in Haridwar continues to remain a mystery. But the riddle is now likely to be unravelled soon, thanks to the "first ever" satellite based census of the 'biggest congregation on the earth' conducted during the 'last shahi snan' (royal bath) that concluded on Wednesday, experts said.

india Updated: Apr 16, 2010 08:36 IST
Deep Joshi

Exactly how many people visit the Mahakumbh in Haridwar continues to remain a mystery. But the riddle is now likely to be unravelled soon, thanks to the "first ever" satellite based census of the 'biggest congregation on the earth' conducted during the 'last shahi snan' (royal bath) that concluded on Wednesday, experts said.

"This first of its kind hi-tech, satellite based headcount of the congregation at the sprawling Mahakumbh area was completed within minutes after three satellites passed through the Indian sky at 10.30am on the last 'shahi snan day', Dr MM Kimothi, Director, Uttarakhand Space Application Centre (USAC) told Hindustan Times.

Identifying these (satellites) as Cartosat-I, Cartosat-II and IRS (Indian Remote Sensing) Liss-4 he said just as the satellites started passing above India on that (last shahi snan) day scientists got their (satellites) high resolution sensors immediately moved towards the sprawling Mahakumbh area and they (satellites) recorded the imageries of the congregation on the ground swiftly within minutes.

"The huge mass of humanity these satellites captured on their high resolution cameras had gathered at a spot (Kumbh Mela venue) which is spread over a massive 19.84 sq km area," he told Hindustan Times.

Saying that ISRO's (Indian Space Research Organisation) National Data Centre in Hyderabad had received all these satellite imageries of the congregation that was present at the Kumbh area on the last shahi snan day, Kimothi said "our man will soon bring these (satellite imageries) to the USAC where their data analyses would be completed within the next couple of days' time."

Space scientists, however, stated that the final census (of the devotees present at the shahi snan) is likely to be made public within the next some days.

"It will take us that much time because besides carrying out the satellite based census our scientists also took the head count of devotees present at the snan area," said Kimothi. Maintaining that the census figure would be near (95 per cent) exact he said scientists were confident of that because final census figures would be disclosed after comparing the head count taken on the ground by USAC scientists and the census data collected via the satellites.

Saying that the ground level census was carried out by a team of 15 space scientists from the USAC he said it (ground census) had been regularly conducted for 24 hours since Tuesday midnight (12 O' clock).

Giving details of the ground level census operations s USAC scientist Kalyan Singh Rawat said it was conducted on the basis of the CCTV camera footage of the congregation not only at the snan area but also on the basis of the (CCTV footage) of the devotees who were coming in through all the entry points to the Kumbh Mela venue like Rishikesh, Chandighat, Delhi-Vadrabad, Roorkee, Dehradun etc. "Census carried out on the ground would be calculated by multiplying per sq metre human density with the total 19.84 sq km Kumbh area," explained Rawat.