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Kumbh- A boost to Nasik's small economy

With the festivities in mind, both the Centre and the Maharashtra Govt have released massive funding to improve the city's infrastructure.

india Updated: Aug 16, 2003 14:01 IST

From flyovers to water supply schemes, who would have thought the Maha Kumbh would give a Rs 450-crore boost to Nashik's economy?

After all, many Kumbh Melas have come and gone but none quite brought a change in the city's fortunes. But this year's Maha Kumbh is different. With the festivities in mind, both the Union and state governments have released massive funding to improve the city's infrastructure. And, its 10 lakh residents are happy that the year-long celebrations will also mean some good business for them.

Says Shahu Khaire, chairperson of the Standing Committee of NashikMunicipal Corporation, "The Kumbh has brought in the necessary funds for the civic body to carry out various projects the residents had been demanding for so long. We will construct 13 bridges on the Godavari and a flyover, Nashik's first, at the Nasik Road railway station. We have widened all existing roads, concretised the ghats at Ramkund where people take the holy dip. The existing bus terminals, shelters and the transport service have been refurbished. The NMC has restructured the water supply and sanitation infrastructure and provided additional amenities at the two Sadhugrams at Nashik and Trimbak. These development projects have not only given employment to several labourers, it has also ensured that the city is up to the mark to receive international tourists."

Apart from this direct impact and visible work during the Kumbh, several other areas have also been impacted. To begin with, the Purohit Sangh - an organisation of local Brahmins who perform the religious rites on the ghats, has sensed the business opportunity and hiked their remuneration for performing rites. May it be a simple puja or a thread ceremony, there has been an increase of around 50 per cent in the charges. Since the Kumbh will be on for the next 13 months and an estimated 60 lakh devotees will turn up at Nashik, the purohits are sure of making that extra money. Interestingly, there are 40,000 such purohits at Nashik and adjoining Trimbak, who perform these rites. "It means these 40,000 families will see more income coming home this year and are likely to spend more - a good sign for the economy," says Nishikant Bhalerao, editor of Deshdoot, a leading daily in north Maharashtra.

Thousands of sadhus thronging the city also mean tremendous business opportunity. Since most of the sadhus eat only fruits or raw vegetables, hundreds of farmers in nearby villages are rejoicing. In fact, several truckloads of fruits and vegetables reach Nashik everyday from surrounding villages and within moments are emptied at the two Sadhugrams. "This is an assured market for the farmers and not many buyers here actually bargain so profits are visible," says Shankar Patil, a farmer and fruit dealer.

Since the Sadhugram is a makeshift arrangement, suppliers of metal sheets, roofs, blankets and tarpaulins are happy too. As the authorities are providing for the accommodation for the Sadhus, most of the suppliers have managed to get a share of the larger business pie. Add to this the additional arrangement made for bottled water. Companies like Bisleri, Aquafina etc have piled up stocks of bottles and the small 250 ml water pouches. Most of these companies are in a position to supply at least 1 lakh pouches everyday during the peak, when the sadhus take the holy dip.

Owners of small eateries and restaurants are also making a killing with the lakhs of visitors every day as well as owners of small inns (termed khanawal in Marathi), who operate from small homes.

And sadhus going hi-tech has also helped. No wonder then that mobile phone companies like like Airtel, Idea, Reliance, Tata Indicom and even the BSNL have increased the installed more capacity for telecommunication needs. While BSNL has tripled the capacity of the telephone exchange, the cellular/WLL operators have invested heavily in transmission towers. Not among the first to get these services at any point of time, the people of Nashik are willing to wait patiently for the 13 months to pass by.The installed capacity will be theirs at the end of it leading to an automatic improvement in communication networks.

"The overall impact is two-fold. One, the city is getting better infrastructure and second, the common man and the small trader is getting more business. Of course, we will have to wait for 13 months but at the end of it, Nashik's roads will be paved with gold," concludes Bahleroa. Nashik is not complaining about the long wait. They know at the end of it, their lagging city will be on par with others like Mumbai and Pune. The wait is well worth it.

First Published: Aug 11, 2003 20:38 IST