Even as the Uttar Pradesh government drags its feet on several projects ahead of the Maha Kumbh in January, it has gone into overdrive to lay out the red carpet for thousands of mediapersons, from India and around the world, who will gather in Allahabad for the mega religious congregation.
The event, being held after 12 years, starts Jan 14 and ends March 10. Around 40 million people are expected to attend.
According to information and public relations department officials, elaborate arrangements are being made for the media jamboree of around 4,000 national and 3,000 international journalists expected to descend on the city from next month.
The government has approved pitching of 100 Swiss cottage tents for the international media and 150 for the Indian media.
While deliberations are on whether to charge international media for the services, journalists accredited by the state government are likely to get free luxury stays in the tents.
A mouth-watering vegetarian menu - including Indian, continental and other dishes - is being planned to cater to the palate of the journalists.
Two cafeterias each for the national and international media are being proposed where food will be made available 24x7 on payment basis, an official privy to the preparations told IANS.
Other than this, a media centre, enough to accommodate 600 mediapersons, will also be set up on the banks of the Sangam, the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati rivers.
In addition, a press conference hall wherein visiting dignitaries and VIPs will be able to interact with the press, broadband connections, 50 computers with internet facility, 10 printers, 10 scanners and many telephone lines and faxes are also being lined up.
For the audio-visual media, a sound-proof studio for recording and uplinking will also be provided.
Officials say three 24x7 cameras would be installed from which footage would be uplinked on an FTA (free-to-air) basis.
In addition, five hi-tech editing machines would be provided for television crews and one FTP (file-transfer-protocol) server would also be established in the media centre.
Live video streaming through eight static high-definition cameras mounted at various 'ghats' has also been approved.
To "enable the world to see what a delight Maha Kumbh is" the information department is also going ahead with plans to have 10 watchtowers near the Sangam Nose (vantage point for photography) wherein electronic media and photojournalists would be allowed.
Arrangements are being made near this place for parking of 25 OB (outside broadcasting) vans "to ensure round-the-clock live coverage of the bathing days".
Ashok Kumar Sharma, media in-charge for the Maha Kumbh, told IANS that the arrangements would be in place by the end of this month.
He also said that application forms for mediapersons who want to cover the congregation have been uploaded on the department's website.
"All efforts are being made by the government to make the event a hassle-free experience for visiting mediapersons," he said.
Chief Secretary Javed Usmani and Principal Secretary (Information) are said to be monitoring the Kumbh preparations on a daily basis.
While the Maha Kumbh is held every 12 years, Kumbh Melas are held every four years, alternately at Allahabad, Haridwar, Nashik and Ujjain.
(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)