The Union Culture Ministry will allocate about Rs 100 crore for the Simhastha Mahakumbh, which begins in Ujjain on April 22, officials said. This will be the biggest budget allocation from the ministry for the Kumbh till date, they said.
Around 6 crore people are expected to attend the Simhastha Mahakumbh, a month-long religious festival held once every 12 years, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi expected to attend at least one event this time.
Tourism and Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma told The Indian Express, “The Mahakumbh is immensely important for the government. While the state government is doing its bit, we will organise a simultaneous month-long cultural show called Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav (RSM) on the sidelines. More than 3,000 artistes from across the country have been invited to perform on four stages at the venue. The event will be documented on canvas by 300 artists, who will hold a mega exhibition of their works in Delhi after the festival.”
Sharma added, “Not just the Culture Ministry, the other two ministries under me (Tourism and Civil Aviation) are also majorly involved in the Ujjain event. While Civil Aviation is extending full support, we will also use the opportunity to promote tourism.”
However, officials said that diverting as much as Rs 100 crore for one event could affect allocations for the other organisations.
Out of the ministry’s budget allocation of Rs 2,500 crore for 2016-17, Rs 400 crore has been collectively earmarked for cultural organisations functioning under the ministry, such as the Sangeet Natak Akademi, Lalit Kala Akademi, Sahitya Akademi and Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts.
The remaining Rs 2,100 crore is allocated for Archaeological Survey of India, museums, libraries and various centenary celebrations.
A joint secretary in the ministry said, “A few weeks ago, the minister had expressed displeasure at many organisations under the ministry ‘promoting their own coterie of popular artistes’ by organising their shows regularly at public expense. He wants to cut down on their budget. I think the Mahakumbh budget is a step in that direction.”
There will be three shahi snans during the spiritual event when lakhs will descend to take a holy dip in the Kshipra. Apart from four-laning of roads and construction of flyovers, the government also plans to renovate temples, ensure electrification and complete beautification work. Special trains and buses will also be organised, said officials. A Simhastha mobile app and a website have been launched, they said. “Several international artistes have also been invited to perform,” said an official.
However, Madhya Pradesh Transport Minister Bhupendra Singh, who is in charge of Ujjain district, told The Indian Express that the state government has not sought any money from the Centre for the Kumbh.
“Maybe, the Chief Minister (Shivraj Singh Chouhan) asked for funds but I am not privy to it,’’ he said. The state government has already spent Rs 3,400 crore on the event with the total expected to reach Rs 5,000 crore, he added.
In a recent press release, the state government had said it has already spent Rs 3,183 crore on 487 kumbh-related works, including construction of roads, bridges and flyovers, and for providing electricity, water and medical facilities at the venue spread over 3,061 hectares.
The congregation held in 2004, which drew around 2 crore devotees, cost only Rs 262 crore.