Mahakumbh 2021: Coin pickers of Ganga to be deployed as lifeguards
These coin pickers earn their livelihood by collecting coins offered to Ganga by devoteesUpdated: Oct 14, 2020, 16:41 IST
For the first time in its history, Mahakumbh, scheduled earlier next year in Uttarakhand, will utilise the services of coin pickers of Ganga as lifeguards, given their expertise in diving and knowledge of depth at various Ganga ghats.
These coin pickers earn their livelihood by collecting coins offered to river Ganga by devotees. They dive into the river, sometimes use a stick, magnets, pieces of glass, hollow plastic boxes and their feet in tracing coins lying on the riverbed.
The mela administration has decided to use their services by further training them to assist the mela force in ensuring safety of pilgrims taking a dip in Ganga and rescuing them in case they drown or get washed away.
Mela administration officer in charge Deepak Rawat said, “They have a good knowledge of the depth at various ghats and I have seen them picking up coins even when the river is swollen.”
Terming it as a unique initiative, Rawat said, “These coin collectors spend a major part of their life on Ganga ghats and are good divers and swimmers. So we thought of taking the help of around 100 of them during the mela and they would be paid for their services.”
Sunil Pal, who lost his father at an early age, has been earning his livelihood by picking coins, utensils and leftover clothes and other items from Ganga ghats. “We have been informed by Har-Ki-Pauri police personnel about this idea of involving us as divers during Mahakumbh. We are excited about this proposal as it will give us an identity and provide us an additional employment,” said Sunil Pal.
Thirty-four-year-old coin picker Pawan Madhuraj earns anywhere between ₹50-150 per day, depending on the occasion. “Besides coins, we also collect utensils, coconuts, items related to funeral rites and leftover clothes at Ganga ghats. At Har-Ki-Pauri alone, there are about thirty such coin collectors whose livelihood depends on this work,” said Madhuraj, who collects coins at Har-Ki-Pauri.
Pradeep Jha, president of Ganga Sabha which manages the affairs of Har-Ki-Pauri, said that apart from Jal police divers, their own Ganga Sevak Dal volunteers are also expert divers who will pitch in with their services during Kumbh and other festive bathes.
“The decision of using coin pickers will further strengthen the safety of pilgrims. This is a good decision,” he said
Akhada Parishad, the apex body of saints, which fixes dates and related rituals of the fair, has also welcomed the initiative to utilise the skills of coin pickers.