Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee chaired a high-level meeting today to oversee preparations for next year’s Ganga Sagar Mela. Bigger crowds expected this time compared to a dip in numbers over the last couple of years due to Covid. The state government expects 30 lakh people to attend.
“I will ask our health department to be alert about the Covid situation and I will instruct them to form a team led by the Health Secretary. We must ensure surveillance,” Ms Banerjee said after receiving information on the Covid situation in China.
Representatives of several agencies, including Indian Army, Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard, Eastern Railway, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Port, BSNL, and the NDRF were present at the meeting. The Chief Minister is expected to visit the island by the end of this month to examine the preparedness.
This year, the state government will also make arrangements for e-snaan and delivery of holy water from Gangasagar to places all over the country. There will also be a new initiative called ‘Sagar Aarti’, on the lines of ‘Ganga Aarti’ in Varanasi.
The West Bengal government has decided to apply for UNESCO’s intangible heritage tag for the Gangasagar Mela after the idea was suggested by the Chief Minister. The state government’s move comes within a few months of the Durga Puja of Kolkata making it to the UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Every year, around 15-20 lakh people come for a holy dip at Gangasagar around Makar Sankranti. This year, it will be held from January 8-17 at the confluence of the Ganga and the Bay of Bengal. Makar Sankranti is on January 15 and most people will be taking a dip in the preceding hours. The Gangasagar Mela is considered the world’s second-largest human congregation after the Kumbh Mela.
Gangasagar, like the Kumbh Mela, has been a destination of faith for centuries for Hindus, and massive arrangements are made for lakhs of pilgrims who visit every year. 51 km of barricades and 1,100 CCTV cameras will be deployed and 10 temporary fire stations. 10,000 toilets will also be set up for devotees. Traffic and medical arrangements are also being put in place by the state government.
This year, the Bengal government is facing the challenge of restoring and reclaiming a Sagar Island stretch of beach that has been badly damaged by Cyclone Yaas and regular erosion. She announced that taxes on Gangasagar have been removed and accidental insurance policy of Rs 5 lakh also has been put in place for devotees and other visitors. No cooking or stoves will be allowed on open fires and food will be distributed by organisations.
Over 3000 buses and barges will be deployed for the Gangasagar Mela. The Chief Minister has requested the Railways to increase frequency train services to Namkhana, an alighting point for Gangasagar devotees. The Navy will be deploying diving teams Kakdwip and Sagar Island. The BSNL has assured interrupted telephone connectivity at Gangasagar Mela. The NDRF will also be deploying rescue teams and deep-diving teams, which can be deployed in an emergency.
The Coast Guard will sanitise a 100 km area till the end of Gangasagar Mela to ensure there is no security breach. “There should be continuous monitoring on CCTV. People will make plans to destroy what we have. They will try and create communal tension. We have to destroy their plans and we are proud people are coming from all over the country,” Mamata Banerjee said.
Ms Banerjee has also confirmed her presence at the National Ganga Council meeting. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is coming to Kolkata for the ‘National Ganga Council’ (NGC) or ‘Jatiya Ganga Parishad’ meeting on December 30. The Prime Minister is the president of that council. Mamata Banerjee will attend the meeting as the Chief minister of the member-state of the Council.
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