The media has been hyper about Kumbh Mela at Haridwar after the Shahi Snan (holy dip) on April 12. There are vivid pictures of hordes of Sadhus taking a dip in Ganges. Doomsday reporters are busy painting a horrendous picture of what is in store.
The numbers are just being thrown in air with no substantiation. Not only are they being thrown in air, but they are also being twisted to draw convenient conclusions. Social Media is anyways known for exaggeration and WhatsApp posts are many steps ahead in creating fear.
This is not in support of the crowd at Kumbh, that should have been in any case regulated and avoided. This is to highlight the numbers and inconsistency.
1) First Shahi Snan: Was on Shivaratri, March 11, 2021. Amar Ujala newspaper reports 37 lakh devotees took a dip on that day. India Today quoting ANI said 20 lakh people took a dip. There is a big gap of 17 lakh (1.7 million) people between them.
More important issue is, why did we not see a surge in Covid numbers after that event? If it was on 11th, by 18-20th March we should have seen the catastrophe? Either the figures are questionable, or the preparations were exceptional.
2) Second Shahi Snan (12th April): There had been big hue and cry over large number of devotees taking a dip and a disaster in store.
ANI reported that 6 lakh people arrived in Haridwar for this Shahi Snan, this was much much lower compared to 1.6 Crore that arrived in 2010. The population of Haridwar is 18.9 lakh. Even if everyone in Haridwar took a dip with visitors the number will be 25 lakh.
But Hindustan Times says 31 lakh took a dip on 13th April, India Today also states 31 lakh took dip throwing covid protocol to winds. Times of India and Business Insider takes the figure even higher to 35 lakh.
However, Amar Ujala said due to Covid the response to the second Shahi Snan was subdued and only 13.58 lakh devotees took bath. Indian Express also reports 13.51 lakh devotees took a dip, same figure was reported in Yahoo News.
Lies, White Lies and Morphed Pictures
The Print’s columnist Zainab Sikander Siddiqui shared a picture of devotees taking a dip in Kumbh. She criticised the devotees for not taking any precautions and also blames the government for allowing it.But the picture she posted is from Kumbh in Prayagraj in 2019.
The current Kumbh is underway in Haridwar.Four days after posting the picture, she wrote an article criticising the Kumbh.The Uttarakhand Government had made extensive arrangements for the Kumbh this year in view of COVID-19.Extensive testing was underway in Haridwar.
Also, the duration of Kumbh has been reduced from the usual three/four months to one month.Businessman Harsh Goenka posted an old picture of sadhus in langot preparing for a dip in the holy waters.Goenka mocked the sadhus saying the international Press is shocked to see how the mask could be lowered this much.
When countered with facts, Goenka deleted his tweet but Siddiqui’s tweet is still there. Goenka did not offer any explanation why did he delete his tweet.
So, what is the correct number? Is it 13.5 lakh or 35 lakh? A huge difference of 21.5 lakh between them.
Anyways, we should keep fingers crossed at least until 19-23 April, when the symptoms could start showing-up in case of a massive outbreak, as being painted.Let us pray, it does not.
(The writer is an author with two books to his credit. A resident of Mumbai, he writes regularly for local publications. He had a 38-year-long corporate career, he is now a Consultant in Organization Change Management)