The Madhya Pradesh government has spent over Rs 3,000 crore and worked overtime for Simhastha fair that begins on April 22 but complaints about basic amenities, including water supply and non-functional toilets, have begun to trickle in.
The Simhastha is a mass Hindu pilgrimage and one of the fairs recognised as Kumbh Melas. During the fair, Hindus gather to bathe in a sacred river. At Ujjain, it is held once every 12 years on the banks of Kshipra river.
Head of Udasin Akhara Mahant Bhagat Ram said, “Two of our sadhus left because they were upset with lack of basic amenities — there was no water in the bathroom.” He said he had to make several calls to the officials to get the washrooms functional. Similar complaints are coming from various akharas about water supply for which the state government has spent more than Rs125 crore.
Juna Akhara general secretary Mahant Hari Giri said, “The state government has the right intentions but the execution has failed at some places. Instead of depending on one or two big contractors, the government should have ensured that small contractors were allocated work of completing the water connections and other basic amenities at all the akharas.”
But, all is not bad. A majority of visitors and sadhus are happy with the quality of road construction and traffic management, thanks to the bridges and flyovers constructed ahead of the fair.
Mela officer Avinash Lavania admitted that there were some problems but assured that all the unfinished projects would be completed in a day or two.
Sources in the government said it was not easy to satisfy all. Officials have been working tirelessly to ensure the facilities as this time even the budget has not been a constraint as it was in 2004.
Officials said big events did have their own challenges. “To ensure that mela area is open defecation-free, we are constructing an additional 34,000 toilets, setting up 10,000 urinals and 15,000 bathrooms.”
Rs 3,000 crore plus spent on Simhastha-related works
Rs 125 crore spent to ensure adequate water supply
34,000 toilets, 10,000 urinals and 15,000 bathrooms (additional) being constructed