Dist admin falters in providing adequate facilities to Ambabuchi pilgrims
GUWAHATI: The district administration, along with concerned authorities, had made tall claims of preparations for Ambubachi Mela that concluded in the city on June 26, Wednesday. The administration had estimated the total expense to conduct the festival at Rs 2. 60 crores.
In a press briefing dated June 12, the Chairman of the Assam Tourism Development Corporation (ATDC), Jayanta Malla Baruah, had announced that there would be provisions for drinking water, rest points and make-shift toilets in all the four routes leading to the Kamakhya Temple premises.
However, devotees of the temple faced a harrowing experience trying to avail these facilities.
"In the entire stretch from the foothill of Nilachal hill to the temple, I struggled to find a public toilet facility for women. Finally, I found one a few metres ahead of the Kamakhya Temple which was utterly unhygienic and unclean,” expressed Sapna Devi, a devotee who had travelled from West Bengal to attend the annual religious festival.
There was no provision of free drinking water for the devotees in the stretch either.
“The government should have at least provided us with drinking water on the way to the shrine. In this hot and humid weather, walking on that steep road to reach the temple felt like a task. I can only imagine the plight of ailing devotees,” expressed another devotee.
Further, provisions like round-the-clock devotional music were not being played on any of the four routes, when this correspondent surveyed the main route leading to Kamakhya Temple on foot.
“We were told that the state government will provide free drinking water and toilet facilities on all routes leading to the temple. But in reality, I have not seen any such facilities. While many volunteers could be seen at the temple premises and the main route, none could be found at the Mekhela Ujoa Path to help us during any eventuality,” said Harsh Sharma, who took the Mekhela Ujoa Path to reach the temple on the third day of the festival.
Additionally, the authorities had constructed footwear stands for the convenience of devotees but failed to man them. When this correspondent visited the temple on the third day of festivities, the footwear stands were found to have been torn and turned into human shelter.
In spite of the state government setting up six rest camps across the city, devotees were also seen taking refuge on footpaths and dividers on the Bharalumukh–Maligaon stretch.
It must be noted that the Assam Tourism Development Corporation (ATDC) claimed to have spent Rs 1.36 crores for publicity of the event, decoration of the Kamakhya Temple and the approaching roads with ornamental lights, and conducting the cultural programs.
Additionally, an amount of Rs 30 lakhs was allocated by the Public Health Engineering (PHE) department for construction of adequate number of toilets for the devotees to keep the area open defecation-free during the Mela days.
And, the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) allocated Rs 23 lakhs for maintaining cleanliness and hygiene in and around the Kamakhya Temple. The GMC was also responsible for steady supply of drinking water through temporary pipelines and the illumination of streets during the Ambubachi Mela.
Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation, Debeswar Malakar, had announced placing of around 100 dustbins in the city but roadside dumping of plastic glasses and plates was a common sight during the Mela days. The devotees, speaking to G Plus, blamed it on the lack of adequate number of dustbins.
During the five days of festival, most of the facilities promised by the authorities were nowhere to be found. The only respite to devotees was the presence of bhandaras set up by various groups of people providing food and water to the devotees.