In what is being dubbed as an apparent bid to commercialise religion, the state government is reportedly planning to auction the advertisement and telecast rights of Kumbh-2013.
The move has drawn sharp criticism from several quarters, including seers and various akhadas. "We will strongly protest any such proposal," said Swami Anandgiriji Maharaj, chief of Ganga Sena.
It all started when special secretary, Uttar Pradesh, Shriprakash Singh reportedly wrote a letter to the commissioner, Allahabad division, directing him to submit a proposal regarding earning of revenue through auction of advertisement and telecast rights of the Kumbh-2013.
The commissioner forwarded the letter to the district magistrate and mela adhikari, Kumbh Mela for further action. As the news leaked, the seers fumed. "Kumbh is a holy bathing festival which draws millions from all over the world. How can any government claim to be the owner of an event that is taking place since ages?" questioned Anandgiriji Maharaj.
"The government's role is to make arrangements for the pilgrims during their stay here. It is not a commercial event and its advertisement rights cannot be sold to anyone," he declared even as other prominent seers echoed his views.
"This is unfortunate. If the advertisement rights are sold there will be no control on the type of content advertised in the mela area and that may hurt the religious sentiments of pilgrims," said a member of a prominent akhada.
Meanwhile, Shriprakash Singh when contacted said, "So many things come up for discussions in meetings to organise something. Just a discussion or proposal does not mean a decision."