Pilgrims are feeling the heat at the Simhastha Kumbh in Ujjain where the mercury is hovering around 40 degrees Celsius. Poor management and malfunctioning of the drinking water supply network in some parts of the fairground has made the situation worse.
A survey by the state health department has found that more than half of over 1,000 people who were rushed to temporary health centres at the fair venue on Day one suffered from dehydration while the rest complained of cold and fever.
KL Sahu, director, health department, said a team of RD medical college had been roped in to conduct surveys of pilgrims’ health during the month-long religious congregation.
A category-wise graph of patients was also being prepared so that causes of illnesses could be monitored and eradicated, he said, adding that random feedback of over 5,000 pilgrims had been recorded so far.
Sahu said enough number of water huts, with purifier and chilling plant, were installed in the fair area but water was unavailable at many points. The situation, he said, was being communicated to the public health engineering department.
The administration earlier claimed that about 1,100 water huts, a majority of them by social organisations and others through a private contract, had been set up at Simhastha.
When HT did the reality check, many points were found to be dry and several others were still in the process of installation. For instance, the water hut near the Bambai Wali dharmashala at Ram Ghat, the epicentre of the fair, went dry hours before the ‘shahi snan’ on April 22. Similarly, no water was flowing into the contracted hut put up near the new Zero Point bridge.
The administration is paying Rs 1.20 lakh each to contractors for running water huts at more than 150 spots. The responsibility of supplying water to the huts being run by social organisations too was that of the PHED but it failed to ensure proper supply.
Additional district magistrate and in-charge of Mahakal area Avdhesh Sharma said complaints about water huts going dry had poured in and officials had been asked to remove the shortcomings.
The Madhya Pradesh Government Railway Police (GRP) has launched a Twitter handle called @grpmpcontrol to address the complaints of the devotees travelling by train to Simhastha fair in Ujjain.
Chouhan listens to grievances of seers
Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan met seers in Ujjain on Monday after they expressed displeasure over the alleged mismanagement during the first shahi snan on the opening day of the Simhastha fair on April 22.
The seers had expressed outrage after the Simhastha organisers allowed common pilgrims to bathe at the Ram Ghat and Dutt Ghat during the first shahi snan, even as the snan of sadhus was not over.
They also complained against the police for their failure to manage the time schedule, which resulted in the niranjani akhara saints waiting for their turn for over an hour.
The holy men later threatened to skip the second shahi snan, scheduled on May 9, if the conditions and management of the holy dip were not bettered.
Akhara parishad president Narendra Giri also criticised excessive barricading within city and said that this compelled people to stay away.
Speaking to the media after pacifying the seers, Chouhan said the government is currently reviewing the traffic plans in the city to ensure that pilgrims need not travel too much on foot. “I have directed the administration to take necessary steps so that mistakes committed on first snan day are not repeated,” he said.