The inspiring lessons from managing logistics of Kumbh Mela

It is all getting so ironical really. The west gradually seems to be warming up to the east and showing more interest in the way latter has been doing things. On the other hand, the east is just busy copying the west. Within this, there is nothing more ironical than seeing Harvard University’s interest in Kumbh Mela. This mela which has been organised for ages but I dont think it has caught anyone’s fancy. Post Harvard  case study, there is a lot of interest.

Rahul Jacobs reflects on the lessons he learnt from a recent PPT on the holy mela:

On Monday, researchers from Harvard University hosted a panel discussion in New Delhi on the lessons learned from the of 2013. In terms of footfall, this was the biggest congregation ever with as many as 120 million visiting. The pictures of rows of neatly laid out tents looked like the ultimate smart city at night, especially considering they had plumbing and electricity. On stage, Jawed Usmani, the former chief secretary of Uttar Pradesh, paid tribute to the work of the police and to his fellow civil servants and to the courtesy extended to his wife and him when he visited the different akharas at the mela. The inspector general of the Meerut police, Alok Sharma, who worked with Mr Usmani, will travel soon on vacation to Nashik, which hosts a Kumbh Mela soon.

Satchit Balsari, a doctor who was part of the Harvard University team, marveled at the fact that no epidemics broke out during the Kumbh. Doctors had dispensed Crocins and a few antibiotics – nothing more than what had been distributed during “the London Olympics,” Mr Balsari said. Chief Minister spoke self-deprecatingly of being asked to visit the police who had worked so hard to keep order and being moved by their request for a jacket to ward off the winter cold.

The sense of camaraderie and team spirit aside, the bureaucracy’s work sounded so efficient that I began to feel like I was listening to a presentation in about a city coming up at lightning speed. Mr Usmani said the government had used district magistrates’ orders to force factories to shut down on certain days so that the effluents into the river where the pilgrims bathed could be kept under control. Similar injunctions were used in China to shut factories ahead of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 to give the city less polluted air. A few of us speaking after the inspiring presentation couldn’t help wondering why the experience of the Kumbh Mela in 2013 could not be carried over to government programmes such as Swachh Bharat. Even the pilgrims departing left behind just a few rectangles of woven rattan matting and not the garbage one might have expected. Yes, more than 30 pilgrims died in a stampede at Allahabad station after a railing collapsed, but the management of the Kumbh itself was an extraordinary success.

India has always been  a paradox. Where you would imagine things will succeed they fail and where you think they will fail they succeed.

Having said that, there is no reason why Kumble Mela success cannot be made broadbased. The political will and need for action does wonders. Nothing else seems to matter. I mean to imagine Kumbh Mela success in UP of all states tells you a thing or two about the importance of political action..

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