49 lakh to 21: mobility data pegs Kumbh’s numbers down
EVEN as the second wave of COVID-19 raged across the nation, the Uttarakhand government officially declared that on the three key days of the Kumbh, April 12, 13, and 14, a total of 49 lakh devotees had taken a dip in the Ganga at Har Ki Pauri and linked ghats in Haridwar.
Under fire for this gathering — the Uttarakhand High Court last week called holding "Kumbh" a “mistake” — officials in the state government and the district administration, after a detailed analysis, have assessed that the attendance figure was almost 70% down, to an estimated 15 lakh, for these three days.
When contacted, Sanjay Gunjyal, Inspector General of Police, Kumbh Mela, said: “The footfall on April 12 was only 21 lakh; on April 13 around 3 lakh and on April 14, about 12 lakh.”
This is sharply lower than what the government had claimed earlier. In April, it had said over 31 lakh people took a dip on the second Shahi Snan on April 12; 4.5 lakh on April 13; and over 13.5 lakh on April 14.
Asked about this significant downward revision, Gunjyal told “The earlier data was based on headcount. But the data for April 12 had been miscalculated by including data of other days as well.”
Senior officials said the substantial crowd was much lower, at about 15 lakh, compared to Gunjyal’s revised estimate of 36 lakh.
This estimated data is based on a review of all key mobility indicators, which include tenancy figures for all hotels in the district, vacancies in registered parking lots, cellphone presence accessed from mobile towers, and passenger traffic for vehicles and on all trains to and from Haridwar.
Cabinet Minister and government spokesperson Subodh Uniyal said statistics of footfall announced by administration were absolutely correct. “But it is also true that footfall was less on shahi snan this time as compared to previous Kumbh due to COVID-19. Common people came in very less number and those who came were only saints who stayed during Kumbh,” he said.