Major activities/attractions during the Kumbh Mela:
• Shahi Snans – On the most auspicious days, the 13 akharas go in a procession with splendor and pomp to bathe at the bathing areas. In the 2010 mela, there were 4 shahi snans.
Pilgrims bathing in the holy Ganga on auspicious days
• Peshwais – Peshwais are the second most important activity at the mela. It is the royal procession of the sadhus and marks the arrival of the members of an akhara at the mela venue. Peshwais mark the actual beginning of the Kumbh.
• Dharmdhwaja – When the akharas establish their camps, they erect dharmdhwajas which remain there till the end of the Kumbh.
• Bathing on auspicious days and watching the shahi snans by all pilgrims.
• Religious discourses by saints and religious leaders.
Strategies Adopted to Overcome Challenges
Led by Mr. Bardhan, the team adopted the following project management strategies:
• A PERT chart of all activities (big or small) related to the Kumbh was prepared and progress monitored accordingly.
• Initially, monthly staff meetings were held in which all departments were represented to monitor the progress of ongoing schemes and plans and resolved inter-departmental issues. As the time passed, such meetings became fortnightly, weekly, and then daily just before and during the mela.
• Meetings and interactions with various stakeholders were a regular feature during the entire period. Among these stakeholders were 13 akharas, traders, Ganga Sabha or the people’s committee established in 1916 as the guardian of the river, and formal and informal committees.
• On an average, the mela committee members made at least three visits a week to Dehradun, the state capital. For each visit, a department-wise list of issues pending at the government level was prepared. For any issue that did not get resolved, committee members had access to the secretary of the department concerned, the highest-level executive for that department, during the visit.
• Regular communication through mobile phones and wireless sets was maintained among the control room, ofﬁcers-in-charge of religious processions and senior ofﬁcers.
• In each sector, there were three key ofﬁcials: the sector magistrate, the sector police ofﬁcer, and the sector health ofﬁcer. Joint meetings of all these sectoral ofﬁcials and nodal ofﬁcers were held once a fortnight to resolve any issues.
• The mela control room had a duty ofﬁcer 24×7 from each important department.
Above and beyond all these strategies, the team had to make sure that all the plans were dynamic enough to incorporate last-minute changes that kept cropping up due to immediate requirements on the ground. The team had to be on top of their plan, keep thinking and innovating on their feet along with coordinating between all the parties.
Following all the above strategies, the mela committee was triumphant in organizing a highly successful and safe event which saw several new initiatives: two national highways were connected for better trafﬁc management and to reduce trafﬁc jams; temporary bridges were made motorable; ghats were modiﬁed to make them accessible to the physically challenged; websites were developed in English, Hindi, and Sanskrit; sectoral plans and layouts were digitized and developed on AutoCAD and GIS; and temporary toilets were constructed.
Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman, Planning Commission of India appreciated the state’s efforts and said, “I would like to congratulate you on the successful completion of the Maha Kumbha Mela. This historical event, which required major infrastructure development and organizational skills, has been conducted in a manner that has been widely appreciated.”
In the end, all the elaborate planning eventually paid off. All major activities passed off peacefully and the 2010 mela saw a list of exceptional achievements that were never witnessed before such as better sanitation and hygiene for the pilgrims and visitors; smooth trafﬁc; no shortage of power supply; no stampedes due to effective crowd management; and 70 percent expenditure on permanent works. The bathing areas were doubled from 7.5 to 15 km.
Beyond this, the new infrastructure has taken care of the long-term requirements of Haridwar. There will be sufﬁcient water in the city till 2040 and the upgraded sewer pipeline will be able to handle sewage till 2050.
Managing a huge event like the Kumbh involves enormous effort. But the 2010 mela proved that executing an epic project could be done by following some basic project management principles. Mr. Bardhan says that the lesson he and his team learnt was that: “With teamwork, effective administration, managerial control on all the activities, adequate human resource support, monitoring and scheduling of all arrangement and coordination with all the stakeholders a gargantuan event can be executed smoothly.”