New Delhi: The Kumbh Mela 2019 at Prayagraj, which started on January 14, is scheduled to end on March 4 with Shahi Snan ( royal bath) on the occasion of Mahashivratri.
According to media reports, around 60 lakh to one crore devotees will witness the royal bath, before calling an end to over a month-long religious festivities.
The massive Hindu religious congregration has, however, had its share of controversies this year, with the death of a sanitation workers, protests over daily wages, longer closure of tanneries affecting jobs among others.
Sanitation Worker Died, Protest Over Daily Wage
Before the last leg of Kumbh, photographs of a much-publicised event of Prime Minister Narendra Modi washing the feet of safai karamchari (sanitation workers) in Prayagraj went viral on social media, but at the same place a sanitation worker died due to negligence of Kumbh Mela administrators.
Much before the Kumbh Mela started, sanitation workers had been demanding an increase wages. They said they were being paid Rs 295 per day. After several rounds of protest, the administration hiked their wages by a paltry Rs 15, making it Rs 310, which is still lower than the minimum wage.
Closure of Leather, Cane & Paper Mill Factories
A month before the Kumbh Mela started, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government-led by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath shut tanneries in Kanpur and nearby districts, affecting the livelihood of at least two lakh people who were employed in these units. Most were daily-wage workers and migrants, and many had to return home.
Soon after that, the Uttar Pradesh government gave notice to almost 60 factories, including sugarcane and paper mills in western Uttar Pradesh, for offloading their waste in Ganga and Yamuna rivers, causing widespread water pollution. The decision was taking in May and the order to shut the tanneries was passed by the Department of Environment's Chief Secretary Renuka Kumar on June 12.
The move invited widespread protests, especially by organisations like the All India Kisan Sabha, which accused Chief Minister Adityanath of taking anti-farmer decisions. Due this move, sugarcane factories will face huge loss as the decision was taken in peak season, said the AIKS
The president of National Capital Region (NCR) Paper Mills Association and Managing Director of Paswara Papers Ltd estimated that the decision to shut paper mills could lead to Rs. 3,600 crore loss in region in three months
Also Read: UP Govt’s Closure Notice to 60 Factories to Hit Cane Farmers Hard in Peak Season
Weddings Prohibited During Kumbh?
In the first week of December, the district administration of Prayagraj banned all marriages between January and March 2019 (during this period due to ‘Kumbh Snaan’. The administration had issued notice to marriage hall owners, guest house and hoteliers to cancel all bookings scheduled during the said time.
Many hall owners and family members had protested as they had already made advance payments for booking marriage halls, caterers, and hotels for guests. A resort manager was quoted as saying that the decisions would inflict a huge loss on business as it is wedding season.
Telegraph reported that at least 2,000 wedding functions may be cancelled.
Also Read: Yogi Govt’s Diktat: No Weddings in Prayagraj During Kumbh
With Lok Sabha elections round the corner and BJP government failing to build the Ram Mandir as promised in their election manifesto, the Adityanath administration tried to go whole hog to make Hindutva sentiments dominate this year’s Kumbh. The government spent over Rs 4,200 crore on this year’s Kumbh which is the costliest Kumbh ever held – all with an eye on the forthcoming elections.
Hundreds of hoardings of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath dotted the streets of the holy town as millions from across India and abroad descended for the religious, spiritual and cultural congregation taking place barely three months ahead of the 2019 general elections.
No wonder, the world's largest religious Hindu congregation makes it a potential political playfield for the BJP that has a strong voter-base among the religious.majority.