Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today complained that Centre provides funds for Kumbh Mela but no financial aid is given for Gangasagar Mela at Sagar Island which records lakhs of pilgrims every year.

“Unlike Kubh Mela where Centre allots funds, Gangasagar Mela is completely funded by the state government. Despite receiving no funds from the Centre, the amount of work that we have done in Gangasagar and the infrastructure facilities that have been set up have never been done before. We have set up accommodation and drinking water facilities for the pilgrims. Our government has done whatever could be done there for the benefit of pilgrims,” she said at Babughat where thousands of pilgrims gather on the way to reach Sagar Island.

Miss Banerjee today returned to Kolkata after her three-day trip to Gangasagar to oversee the mela preparations. She said that the state government has constructed new roads, new guest houses and new hotels. “We want a peaceful mela. Several measures have been taken to keep it peaceful,” she added.

Miss Banerjee asked pilgrims going to visit the Gangasagar Mela to maintain peace and inform police in case of any need. “Safely go there and return. In case of any need approach the administration or inform police. We have taken all sorts of precautions.” She announced that pilgrims would get an insurance cover of Rs five lakh each in case of any untoward incident from 9 to 17 January. Miss Banerjee said that after coming to power in 2011 her government withdrew the “tirtha kar” that was imposed earlier as we feel that undertaking a pilgrimage is the right of every person.

Gangasagar mela is an annual congregation of Hindu pilgrims at the Sagar island where they take holy dips at the confluence of the Ganga and the Bay of Bengal during the Makar Sankranti. Addressing the administrative meeting at Kakdwip in South 24 Parganas on 6 January, Miss Banerjee had apprehended that “some elements might try to create trouble during the week-long mela”. She had told police that no such incident would be tolerated. It has to be ensured that no one creates any mischief at the mela ground, Miss Banerjee had told.