The stampede at a shrine in Chitrakoot on Monday brought into focus the nearly forgotten existence of an authority that was set up in 2011 to regulate pilgrimages and fairs.
Madhya Pradesh Teerth Evam Mela Vikas Pradhikaran (MP Pilgrimage and Fairs Authority) was established to streamline the organisation of various religious melas (fairs) and pilgrimages besides developing facilities for the visitors.
Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was made head of the general body that was supposed to run the authority. The authority suffered from inertia from the beginning.
It took the government about a year to find a chairman (Meghraj Jain) and vice-chairman (Om Mehta) for the authority. Interestingly, for more than eight months, the authority did not have an office of its own.
Not only this, the authority that was established with much fanfare is still without by-laws and basic rules. Chairman Meghraj Jain had to leave the post before elections. About half a dozen employees were sent to the authority on deputation. While they get their pay checks regularly, it is hard to tell what difference they have made to the authority’s functioning.
When contacted for their comments, Jain and principal secretary culture Manoj Shrivastava did not respond.
Also, while inaugurating the authority, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had said permanent community halls would be constructed at divisional level for the convenience of elderly pilgrims.
Then culture minister Laxmikant Sharma had announced the authority has formulated Shravan Yojna under which call centres would be set up at centres of pilgrimage in and outside the state, where pilgrims can access information about these sites.
Neither the community halls, nor the call centres have materialised so far.