What is the similarity between worlds's biggest religious fair 'Kumbh Mela' and a great football or a Cricket match? One must be wondering about this stupid question. Though there is no similarity but there is one great difference and that is sheer scale of commercialization. Football or Cricket lovers can watch their favorite match on a specific television channel by paying some amount to their service provider but they can't watch it on every sports channel as they are not free to watch and other channels are not permitted to cover it. On the other hand, everyone, every media print or television is free to go and cover it. There were no restrictions as such till now on this most world's biggest religious fair which attracts millions of people.
Kumbh Mela attracted largest number of people every 12 years and estimates say that in 2001 more than 40 million people gathered on a single day and this volume will even be greater in year 2013. Now, Uttar Pradesh government wants to generate revenue by auctioning advertising and telecast rights. That means only one channel will have the broadcasting rights of the fair and except few, other channels news or non news will be barred to cover it. This affair would seem to be just like any other live event where choice of viewing often limited to only one channel. With this sort of revenue generation drive Kumbh site will also be flooded with all kind of commercial hoardings and banners which will turn a holy site into a commercial spectacle.
This step has raised a lot of questions and the most important is who owns the Kumbh Fair in Allahabad? Is it the government of Uttar Pradesh who takes care of the administration during the fair, or the Akharas who often claim so or the people of this country who have been religiously participating since thousand years without any interference? This step seems completely illogical and it is also bound to stir controversy. What people expect from the state government is to provide them better facilities in sanitation, approach roads, policing etc but not to make money by selling the fair's telecast rights to one broadcaster.
Photograph Courtesy: http://www.mahakumbh.com/