For the first time, Government of Maharashtra has created the post of Kumbh Minister and Nashik’s guardian minister, Girish Mahajan who also holds the portfolio of Water Resources, has been given the task. Organiser spoke to him about the progress of Kumbh Ministry’s tasks. Here are excerpts from the interview.
- Have you experienced any political hurdles as Kumbh Minister as Nashik Municipality is with MNS and Zila Parishad is with Congress?
I may say, none. Our government came to power just seven months ago. Many of the tenders for infrastructural works were notified by earlier government, but some of the processes were not initiated. But I may say, we have completed targets of work completion with considerable speed. My team of officers manning various departments at Nashik is an efficient one. We have worked with setting deadlines and are achieving it.
Kumbh Mela is not organised by government or a party. It’s a people’s event, mainly of Sadhus and Sanyasis. So everybody works for it.
But let me clear, not all earlier tenders or plans were followed, except many of the road works, for which the contracts were already granted by earlier government.
- We have heard about your quality control measures…
Yes, I have given strict instructions to monitor the quality of each infrastructural work. We have a plan for third party assessment of quality of each work. I have requested the IIT Mumbai to provide a team of expert for this. I hope they will provide us with one. In case they do not respond, we will try to get help from another institute or we may opt for a commercial company too as a last resort.
I have told the officers to monitor and maintain the quality of the work. If anybody from the public complains about the quality of any of the work, we will immediately order a time bound inquiry and the payments will be stopped till the issue is sorted out. The contractors have the responsibility of maintaining the high quality and they will have to do the repairing at their own costs if quality discrepancies or any damage is found in the work done.
- How is the idea of public participation working?
That’s right, we are getting more public participation this time, thru NGOs, thru direct recruitment of volunteers, involving local Mandals etc. We had three successful cleaning drives for cleaning water bodies and river fronts. Now we have planned the biggest drive on July 1, in which we hope to rope in more than 25 thousand people. We are trying to get participation of fifty thousand citizens in cleaning plastic garbage and plantation drive. I have planned a meeting with all the stakeholders including political parties, NGOs, local mandals and volunteers.
- In 2003 Kumbh, there was a stampede killing more than 35 people. What will be the disaster management measures this time?
This time we have worked out a macro plan. We are giving training to government servants and volunteers in crowd management and disaster mitigation at various levels. We have set the target of ‘zero mishap event’, and I am confident to achieve it. We are extensively using digital technology for crowd management, public information and disaster control and mitigation. We have set up various control rooms, also a website dedicated to Kumbh, a facebook page, and a twitter handle even created mobile apps. We will be erecting large video walls across the city and the public will have ease in getting information. A good quality CCTV network is already in place with a good quality public address system network by police department is in place in both Nashik and Tryambak.
We have extensively planned traffic movements, details of which you can get from officials and even through website, facebook page and twitter handle. We have marked core areas and administrative routes. No vehicle except emergency vehicles will be allowed on administrative routes.
You can see the control rooms monitoring 24×7 through CCTV networks and see the software developed for crowd management and disaster mitigation.
We have even notified the Army camp in Nashik to be ready to face any eventuality. We are not taking any risks.
- Your administration has removed encroachments on large scale. Had you experienced political resistance in the task?
You can see the changed face of the city after removing the encroachments. We have not seen to Kumbh arrangements through political goggles. We hoped that all the political parties should see the reason and all the parties extended good co-operation in removing encroachments. After starting the drive, many encroachers came forward and removed their own encroachments. There was minimal resistance.
- Are the parking arrangements going to be handed over to contractors or will those be managed by the government?
The parking arrangements will be managed by government. It’s not an easy task creating temporary parking plots. We have to acquire land and level it up just for few months and before returning it back to owners, we have to remove the material used for levelling it. But the arrangements will be managed by administration and will be sufficient enough to handle the incoming crowd of pilgrims.
- Maharashtra’s largest civil hospital is in Nashik with 1200 bed capacity, yet this city has a most expensive health care service even in public sector. Are you planning a medical college in Nashik, which is a long standing demand from the locals?
Yes there is a long standing demand and it’s also a necessity to have a medical college in Nashik. It’s the third largest city of Maharashtra and is a pilgrim centre as well as an industrial town. This city also has its own importance in cultural and educational affairs of the state. It hosts Kumbh mela every 12 years and crores of people from entire country visit Kumbh. That’s why we are positively considering a government medical college for Nashik and people will have it in coming days.
(July 12, 2015 Page : 40-41)