Ujjain :The Simhastha Mela is frequently billed as the world’s largest religious congregation. It is almost true, but how can we know for sure? The two men with the challenge of counting up to an estimated 5 crore people, have been dwelling on it for long. They have also come up with various ideas on how to do it. They are Divisional Commissioner Ravindra Pastor and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) V Madhukumar, who are also entitled the task of hoisting the festival.
The Commissioner reckons the number of pilgrims passing through the Simhastha Mela site on the banks of the Kshipra between April 22 and May 22 will end up somewhere 5 crores. On the occasion of first Shahi Snana of April 22 up to 1.5 crore pilgrims will come over the 24-hour period,” Commissioner Pastor says. Most pilgrims come and stay in the Mela area for three to four hours, take a bath for 15 to 20 minutes and go back, he adds.
Saints of the 13 Akhadas, at the festival are based in its tented city for two and a half months. IGP Madhukumar toes the lines of commissioner and says the police are preparing equivalently big for the mela preparations. It is like one third of American population congregating on a single place, IGP Madhukumar says. He said no method is going to tell us the exact number of people entering and leaving the city, what we can get is an approximation. Both men use different techniques for counting but agree neither method is scientific or water tight.
Commissioner says the Simhastha will be technically controlled. From a series of watch towers across the 22 sectors of the Mela site head-counters try to keep a tab on the number of pilgrims below. “It’s not the most scientific way of doing it,” Pastor said. “But that is the only estimate available to us”. This time RFID tags, head count cameras, satellite imagery, mobile based density count will also help in the process. Based on the color of the images of the satellite they are going to tell what is the density of human population in a specific area,” he said. Using calculations based on the average stay of pilgrims and photographs taken at different times of day, the Commissioner hopes it will provide a more accurate count.
“We are going to use thumb rules,” says IGP. His team positions counters at the entry points to the Mela area, which leads to the bathing ghats (banks). They will calculate the maximum crowd capacity of 100 meters of road based on the assumption that each pilgrim will take up 3 square feet of ground. Then they will measure the speed of the crowd by timing how long it takes a police officer to move 500 meters with the throng. “The pace of crowd will keep changing depending on the density,” the Inspector General added. Once they know how long it has taken the policeman to walk 500 meters they can work out how big a crowd has covered the same distance and how many people have passed. Vehicles arriving along the entry roads around city will be counted using high tech equipments and trains with up to 6,000 passengers each are also added to the total.