Lakhs of pilgrims have started pouring into Gangasagar to take holy dip at the confluence of the Hooghly and the Bay of Bengal on the occasion of Makar Sankranti. Pilgrims are coming from different states including Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Haryana and from several districts of West Bengal.
A senior official of South 24-Parganas district said that they are expecting nearly 5.6 lakh people to arrive to take holy dip on Makar Sankranti. Till Tuesday around 5.3 lakh people have arrived here, he said. Unprecedented security measures have been taken to prevent any untoward incidents. Around 140 CCTV cameras have been installed at several entry points and in different parts of the Gangasagar fair ground. The state administration has made elaborate security arrangements this year for the mela, especially increasing the number of CCTV camera from 30 last year to 140 this year. CCTV cameras were also installed in and around the Kapil Muni temple on the island&’s bank and a number of watchtowers were erected there.
South 24-Parganas district administration called for a green and clean Gangasagar fair this year, with around 12,000 public toilets set up on Sagar island, which have been painted yellow, so pilgrims will not face any difficulty spotting them. PB Salim, district magistrate of South 24-Parganas, said that over 10,000 police personnel have been deployed at the fair ground. Civic volunteers, plain-clothes police teams, RAF and combat force too have been deployed at the fair ground. The police has opened several camps on Diamond Harbour Road to assist pilgrims.
Several ministers of the Trinamul Congress government, including Subrata Mukherjee, state minister for public health engineering and gram panchayat, have already visited the island to supervise arrangements. Mukherjee also came on Tuesday to supervise the arrangements at the fair ground.
Shamima Sheikh, Sabhadipati of the South 24-Parganas zilla parishad, demanded that the Gangasagar fair be declared as a national fair so that more Central funds can be obtained for better management of the fair.
A special evening 'arati' will be the attraction of this year&’s fair. It is learnt that a team will come from Rishikesh to offer Ganga arati, similar to the arati of 'Har ki Pauri' ghat at Haridwar.
The UNICEF, World Bank and a number of international NGOs are helping the state government this year to organise the fair properly.
An alert was sounded to intercept any passengers boats or other boats, fishing trawlers or vessels bound for Sagar Island from Bakkhali and other areas of the Bay of Bengal. This is a special measure to prevent any untoward incidents. No vessel will be allowed to ferry passengers from Rasulpur to Sagar Island till 15 January as a precautionary measure. A budget of Rs.60.30 lakh has been allocated for this year&’s Gangasagar fair. People are coming to the fair ground by bus. Both public and private buses are bringing pilgrims from Kolkata and its outskirts. Civic volunteers, lifeboats, divers from disaster management groups and speed boats have been deployed by the state government at Lot No 8, from where thousands of pilgrims are coming to Sagar Island using several jetties put in place for the purpose.
Nearly 5.6 lakh people to take a dip at the confluence of the Hooghly on Makar Sankranti.