Sunday, March 03, 2013

Kumbh Mela managerial marvel

FT joins others (including a  team from Harvard) in marvelling at the managerial capabilities that underlie the successful organisation of the Kumbh Mela festival this year.

On the sandbanks of the river Ganges at Allahabad, bureaucrats and workers from Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state and one of its poorest, took less than three months to build a tent city for 2m residents complete with hard roads, toilets, running water, electricity, food shops, garbage collection and well-manned police stations.....

.....Devesh Chaturvedi, a senior official who is divisional commissioner of Allahabad, is proud of the “huge task” that he and perhaps 100,000 workers have completed in organising this year’s festival.
He mentions 165km of roads on the sand made of steel plates, 18 pontoon bridges, 560km of water supply lines, 670km of electricity lines, 22,500 street lights and 200,000 electricity connections, as well as 275 food shops for essential supplies such as flour, rice, milk and cooking gas.
The obvious question that is being asked is if such a feat of organisation can be accomplished for this purpose, why not elsewhere? Why can't India's villages and towns be similarly transformed. Well, motivation apparently is everything: the people involved in the project think they are actuated by a sense of mission, given the religious significance of the event. In principle, however, India should be able to replicate it in other places: neither talent nor resources is the real constraint:
First, the authorities ensure that all those working on the project are accountable for their actions and the money they spend. Second, those involved are highly motivated.
“They feel it’s a real service to all these pilgrims who have come here, the sadhus [holy men] and the seers, so it’s a sort of mission which motivates them to work extra, despite difficult working conditions.” 

Good organisation and efficient infrastructure, in short, are no more impossible in India than anywhere else. “The lesson is, it can be done,” says Bhagawati Saraswati, a Californian-born Hindu devotee camped on the river bank with other members of an ashram based on the upper Ganges.



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