SANGAM TO HAVE EIGHT PUCCA GHATS
If the announcement made by Mr. Azam Khan, State Minister for Urban Development and Minority Affairs, is indeed translated into practice and Sangam gets eight pucca ghats, it will certainly be the fulfillment of a long cherished dream. And as work is already underway in full swing, there is every reason to hope that in the forthcoming Mahakumbh at Allahabad, pilgrims will not have to cope with slippery, muddy ghats but will be enjoying the benefit of the big bounty that is in the offing. Decades ago, Varanasis ghats were also passing through a similar ordeal of neglect till Dr Sampumanand stepped in to provide Pucca Ghats. That turned the tide in favour of Varanasi; and the tourist traffic, particularly of foreign visitors, galloped at a gate-crashing speed to make that city a big revenue earner, bringing prosperity to Varanasi and giving a new life to the hotel industry which was till then passing through a critical financial state. The leading hotels of Varanasi were on the verge of closure after the British left owing to lack of business. But in no time, after the pucca ghats came up, the industry turned over a new leaf.
Why wasnt this work undertaken earlier in Allahabad? There was a reason for this if rumors are to be believed. It was being alleged that such a proposal was deliberately scuttled by vested interests who did not want any permanent structures here as that would deprive them of the benefit of reaping advantage from the high recurring expenditure which has to be incurred year after year for the Magh Mela and that expenditure swells manifold more for the Mahakumbh. If these ghats come up, obviously there will be permanent electricity fittings too. This will keep the area well lighted at night. Likewise permanent lighting arrangement would be made elsewhere in the area too. This would mean that there will be no need for annual expenditure on temporary electrification which not only runs into a fabulous figure but also yields butter and milk after the mela is over. The costly fittings are dismantled. Where they go is any bodys guess. Special power generators for Mela are arranged. Where they disappear after the fair, none knows. We had been pleading that after the Mela these generators should be attached to the tube-wells of the city so that in case of power failure, electricity supply is maintained through these generators and consequently there is no disruption in water supply. The city will ever remain grateful to Azam Khan if indeed he is allowed to carry through his plan for eight pucca ghats. Since these will be the latest in design and equipped with modern facilities, one need hardly presume that they will attract wider attention from tourists, both local and foreign. Since this is going to be a one-lime major investment, the Minister will have to keep his trusted men on the vigilance squad to ensure that that the best of material is used, the best of designing is done and also that anyone trying to act as a hurdle will not just be shown the door but may even land up near the prison door. Azam Khan has directed senior officers of all the departments connected with the Mahakumbh work to see to it that the very best results are attained and that the new look will indeed turn this into a historic achievement. At the same time Azam Khan has also given a stern warning that in case any irregularity is found in the construction work to be undertaken, both the officers and the contractors will be held responsible for the debacle and sent to jail. In other words if the contractors and the officers supervising them are unable to ensure the highest quality of work, they will have to cool their heels in prison. For the pilgrims this time, modern toilets will be available with pressure taps to ensure thorough cleanliness. There is also a move to construct a huge Rain Basera at a cost of six crore rupees. He had planned this earlier too but the Defence authorities had not released the land. It will be hoped that this time the hurdle will be crossed. Azam has warned the Nagar Nigam officials that if even a twig or a speck of garbage is found or polythene bags or paper bits are seen lying here and there, they will have to face the music.
What is more, now the Mela will be visible on website. Azam Khan inaugurated the website; the website is