MANASH PRATIM DUTTA
GUWAHATI, June 23 - Despite tall claims made by the authorities concerned for making public facilities sufficiently available round the clock for the pilgrims and general people during the Ambubachi Mela which has witnessed a conglomeration of thousands of devotees today, the ground reality is, however, telling a different story.
Although the Chairman of the Assam Tourism Development Corporation (ATDC) Jayanta Malla Baruah on June 12 had announced that there would be provisions for drinking water, rest points and make-shift toilets in all the four routes leading to the temple premises, devotees had to experience a harrowing time to get access to these facilities on Sunday.
The ATDC, one of the main organisers of the Mela, has already spent more than Rs 1 crore for the annual event.
Further, provisions like round-the-clock devotional music were not being played in any of the four routes, when this correspondent surveyed the road from Aruna Cinema Hall (now closed) to Kamakhya Temple on foot.
There was no provision of free drinking water for the devotees in the entire stretch. The public toilet facility was also nowhere to be seen. “It would have been great had the government provided the devotees drinking water on their way to the shrine,” said Ajay Ghosh who came to attend Ambubachi Mela all the way from Cooch Behar.
He further stated that due to lack of drinking water and provisions for toilets, the women devotees and elderly persons are also facing a lot of inconveniences.
“The government wants us to make it to the temple on foot. But walking through such a steep road and that too in such a hot and humid condition makes it really really difficult for the devotees who are facing several health issues. In such a case, I do not see any arrangements for shifting an ailing devotee,” added Ghosh.
In addition to this, the number of volunteers is also very less compared to the number of devotees who might require assistance. Devotees alleged that the scenario is identical in all the other three routes.
“We came to know through media that the State government will provide free drinking water and toilet facilities for the devotees in all the routes. But in reality, I have not seen any such facilities. Even there are no volunteers to help us during any eventuality,” said Arun Nath who reached the temple today via Mekhela Ujoa Path.
According to a statement of the State government, the Public Health Engineering (PHE) department is responsible for constructing an adequate number of toilets for the devotees.
An official source at the PHE informed that to keep the city open defecation-free during the Mela days, the department would spend more than Rs 30 lakh.
According to a government document, the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) would facilitate drinking water supply and cleanliness during the Mela days. The GMC officials, when contacted, said the department will spend Rs 23 lakh in maintaining cleanliness and hygiene in and around the Kamakhya Temple, along with the steady supply of drinking water through temporary pipelines and the illumination of streets, during the Mela days.
GMC Commissioner Debeswar Malakar earlier informed that his department would set up 330 water taps in and around the Kamakhya Temple for devotees who are expected to throng the temple during the upcoming Ambubachi Mela. He also stated that to ensure proper cleanliness, 58 workers would be deployed along with 10 supervisors. But in reality, no such initiatives were taken.
“This time, even the officials are not concerned to keep the temple premises free from garbage or littering. Moreover, the police personnel and the volunteers have failed to streamline the proceedings,” alleged Ambu Sen from West Bengal and a regular visitor during the Ambubachi Mela.