Rajahmundry: Apart from a majority section of five crore population in the state, pilgrims from Hyderabad, other states like Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and a few devotees from the US have turned up to take part in Godavari Maha Pushkaralu being held from July 14.
So far, over 4.25 crore devotees took dip till 2.00 pm on Friday and the number may touch five cro-re by the culmination of the fete on Saturday in both the Godavari districts. A large number of de-votees mainly from Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam are flocking the city.
Earlier, IT minister Palle Raghunatha Reddy had said that they were expecting a turnout of about 4.5 crores devotees by the end of the fete, but the number of devotees is likely to surpass government expectations.
For the conduct of Pushkaralu this year, the state government has started preparations nearly six months ahead of the fete. It appointed a series of committees at state level with one headed by the minister for finance, Yanamala Ramakrishnudu, and later it appointed state government advisor (communications) Dr Parkala Prabhakar and subsequently, minister for municipal administration P. Narayana was made the head of the committee to oversee the arrangements.
The state appointed principal secretary rank officers including J.S.V. Prasad and R.P. Sisodia to monitor the works. At local level, it appointed Rajahmundry municipal commissioner J. Murali as the officer on special duty, but later relieved him and appointed K. Dhanunjaya Reddy and district collectors H. Arun Kumar and K. Bhaskar of both the districts to supervise the execution of works.
Thousands of proposals have come up for taking up works related to irrigation, municipal administration, roads and buildings, panchayat raj, endo-wments, public health and others and finally, the government has approved only the works related only to Pushkaralu.
The government claims that it has taken up works worth Rs 1,600 crore. For the beautification of Rajahmundry, the main centre of the fete, it is spending a whopping Rs 4.15 crore.
A series of review meetings were carried out headed by the CM N. Chandrababu Naidu, ministers, chief secretary I.Y.R. Krishna Rao and officials and contracting agencies were asked to expedite the works. However, some works remain incomplete even till today. When all was set for the inauguration of the fete at 6.26 am on July 14, the tragic death of 27 devotees took place during the stampede at Pushkar ghat tarnishing the image of the government.
As a damage control exercise, Mr Naidu along with a team of cabinet ministers and the top brass of the police led by director general of police J.V. Ramudu took control of the conduct of the fete and started to supervise every part of the fete ranging from crowd management at the ghats to providing amenities and transport to avoid any trouble.
Mr Raghunatha Reddy said, "The government has taken up all steps to make the fete incident free after tragic death. In fact, the CM is camping in city since July 14 to monitor the developments in person. For the first time, he stayed for such a long time away from Hyderabad after staying for eight days in Visakhapatnam to oversee restoration works after cyclonic storm Hudhud ravaged North Andhra districts."
No scientific method for enumeration of devotees
The enumeration of de-votees taking holy dip in Godavari river and performing rituals is unscientific. The government is relying upon a series of sources to find out the number of devotees swarming bathing ghats. Accordingly, special deputy collectors are po-sted at ghats to supervise the process of counting devotees manually by the enumeration staff.
They watch how many devotees are taking dip in the river and register the number. Police and intelligence bureau are doing a similar job but separately. The authorities are also collecting information from railway and bus stations on the number of devotees.
Finally, the Godavari Pushkaralu special officer will release the final figures after tallying the figures submitted by various sources at regular intervals say for every two hours.