Allahabad: Those who thought the Bollywood saga of "lost and found in mela", rooted in the Kumbh, is perhaps long over, could mull over this.

At the ongoing Maha Kumbh in Allahabad, more than two lakh people got separated from their near and dear ones in the last month and a half, and an equal number were reunited thanks to the 'Khoya-Paya Shivirs' (lost and found camps).

The reunions have been bringing relief to the otherwise hassled mela administration, which, for ages, has been criticized for doing little to ensure people are not lost, and if they are, they are united with their families. According to officials at the mela's lost and found section, over two lakh people were registered on a new computerized system as 'lost' and were later reunited with their families through time-tested efforts such as announcements on public address systems, display of pictures and details on nine LED screens put up on the sprawling 58 sq km campus, and identification posters.

This time too, camps to locate lost ones were 'outsourced' to private organizations and social service help groups, an official said. At the lost and found centre, run by Bharat Seva Dal in sector 4 of the mela campus, more than 1.65 lakh people were reunited with their families till February 28 since the Kumbh began on Makar Sankranti January 14.

This included 179 children. This year, old timers say, incidents of lost pilgrims was the highest, largely because of the turnout also was mammoth. Seventy-three people, who were traced after a fortnight, were sent back home on trains with the Kumbh administration arranging the tickets.

Officials told reporters that more than 47 people were yet to be reunited with their families and efforts were on to ensure the reunion. The computer network of Uttar Pradesh Police, run by Datanet Technology through its six computers, has done a great job too, officials say.

Company director Dhananjay Singh says they reunited more than 31,000 people.Mela 'adhikari' (administrator) Mani Prasad Mishra, admitting that dealing with surging crowds was indeed challenging, thanked the arrival of the cellphone, which helped relocate many a lost ones easily and quickly.

Officials also thank octogenarian Raja Ram Tiwari who has been at the forefront of happy reunions at the Kumbh since 1994. He says he has so far helped more than 11 lakh people reunite with their families.NGOs such as Bharat Seva Dal and Mrs Bahuguna Seva Smriti in Sector 4 have been working since the start of the Kumbh, helping people find their lost relatives or friends. Sans any government support, except 70 tents to house the lost ones, these NGOs have not only managed the reunions but also spent large sums on the upkeep and feeding of the lost people till their  families are found. Over 20 quintals of wheat flour, four quintals of rice, five quintals of sugar and over 75 litres of kerosene has been spent on feeding these people, the additional mela adhikari told reporters.

The most number of people lost on a single day was February 9, eve of the Mauni Amavasya, when more than 38,587 people got lost, closely followed by 35,729 on Mauni Amavasya when more than 3.5 crore people took a dip at the Sangam in Allahabad. The same day, 37 people were killed in a stampede at the Allahabad railway station.

The number of people lost between Jan 17 and Feb 21, 2001, (the last Kumbh) was 1.43 lakh, Ranjeet Pandit of Bharat Seva Dal told reporters. With nine days still to go for 55-day Hindu religious congregation, touted as the biggest on the earth, comes to end, the Kumbh is headed for another record of sorts in the lost and found category.


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