Religious fair visitor arrival figures inflated: CAG

February 20th, 2008 - 4:52 pm ICT by admin  

Lucknow, Feb 20 (IANS) Arrival figures at an important religious congregation of the Hindu community, the Ardh Kumbh Mela in Allahabad last year, were inflated, a report by Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has stated. According to the CAG report for the year 2007, which was tabled at the state assembly here last week, the local district magistrate and other officials involved in organising the fair had inflated the crowd figures.

“The mela (fair) officer assessed the possible crowd in Ardh Kumbh Mela 2007 on incorrect assumptions, resulting in avoidable expenditure on arrangements. Water fit for bathing in the ’sangam’ area was also not ensured for the pilgrims. Precautions taken in solid waste management and disaster management were inadequate during the mela,” the report pointed out.

Records of 20 of the two dozen government departments checked by audit teams of CAG showed “the mela arrangements based on an estimated presence of 30 million (three crore) on the peak bathing day, Mauni Amavasya, as well as on other important days were inflated by 31 to 67 percent.”

Since the allocation of funds for various jobs carried out by different departments were based on the estimated crowd, the overall budgetary allocation of Rs.1.73 billion was much higher than the actual requirement.

The report gave a detailed account of sadhus, pandas (also called ‘kalpvasis’) and others, who camp through the month-long mela period in the area along the banks close to the holy confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and the now invisible Saraswati rivers.

The CAG team found out that the official estimate of 4.5 million ‘kalpvasis’ was inflated by more than 12 times. “If the entire land (173,000 sq ft) reserved for ‘kalpvasis’ were to be utilized by 4.5 million people, it would have left only about four sq ft of land available for each person, which was absolutely unrealistic,” the report pointed out.

It went on to add, “assuming that one person would require at least 50 sq ft of land in the mela area, the earmarked land could not have accommodated more than 350,000 people, without even setting aside any land for road and other public facilities.”

The report has also reasoned how the numbers, even on the most crowded day, could not have exceeded 5.5 million.

“Thus by any standard, three crore (30 million) people estimated by the mela officer for obtaining the budget allotment was incorrect,” the report said. It has also castigated the state government departments for incurring wasteful expenditure on various avoidable construction works, which were undertaken only in view of the projected crowd estimates.

Be it construction of pontoon bridges, water pipelines or power lines to set up a gigantic tent township for the mela, everything was done beyond proportion, the report stated.

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