The changing course of the Ganga might keep Collectorate Ghat away from Chhath revellers this time.
Sources in the district administration said the river has shifted by at least 2km towards north in the past two years. “The devotees have to walk through a sandy stretch to reach the Collectorate Ghat because of the change in the course of the river. Keeping this in mind, the Collectorate Ghat, one of the most popular ghats in the state capital used by the devotees for a dip in the river on Chhath Puja, might be closed for them this year,” a senior officer in the district administration said.
The change in the river course has separated two more ghats — Pahalwan Ghat and Baans Ghat. Meetings are being held to decide the ghats that would not be allowed for the Chhath Puja on November 19. “With the Ganga shifting at least 2km away, people would have to walk through a sandy stretch to reach the river. There are many puddles along the stretch, which is very muddy. It is not a safe idea for the devotees to walk along the stretch. Till 2010, the situation at the Collectorate Ghat was fine. Last year, there were orders not to use the ghat for the Chhath rituals. But then some devotees didn’t pay heed to the order. This time, the administration will be strict,” the officer told The Telegraph.
He added that more rounds of meetings would be held before taking the final decision on whether to allow the revellers use the Collectorate Ghat or not.
Elaborating the factors leading to the change in the course of the Ganga, V.S. Dubey, the head of the geology department, Patna University, said: “Siltation is the main reason why any river changes its course. Geologically, it cannot be predicted about the time of such shifting of courses. If a bridge or a dam prevents the flow of a river, siltation occurs. The river dumps waste, which consist of sand particles and clay, during the process. The velocity of the river also increases because of the barriers. And the result is a change in its course.”
In 2011, the administration had allowed the devotees to use 65 ghats. “The administration will soon decide the ghats that the devotees would be allowed to use this year. Besides, the list of dangerous ghats will be prepared by this week. As far as the Collectorate Ghat is concerned, it is mainly used by the affluent. One of the biggest dangers that the devotees might face is a drain between the river and the ghat. We will decide by this week if the ghat will be allowed for use,” the official said.
The Pahalwan Ghat, which is also considered a VIP ghat, is another favoured destination of Chhath devotees, particularly the wives of several politicians. The positive aspect about the Pahalwan Ghat is that a roadway has been constructed from it to the Ganga. The devotees can use the roadway to reach the river and take a dip. “But in case of the Collectorate Ghat, a similar facility could not be constructed because the area is muddy and very deep,” the official in the district administration said.
However, the chances of the Collectorate Ghat remaining out of bounds have not gone down well with the devotees. “We have been using the ghat for Chhath prayers for years. Last year, the Ganga was far away. But we walked down to the river along the sandy stretch and offered our prayers. I will not go to any other ghat, come what may. The district administration can construct a bamboo bridge over the drain carrying dirty water. The muddy stretch can also be covered by a strong bamboo platform,” said Gauri Devi, who lives near the Collectorate Ghat.
Manorama Devi, a resident of Bakarganj, said: “I got married around 30 years ago. Since then I have been offering my Chhath prayers at the Collectorate Ghat. The administration starts talking about the safety of the ghat only during Chhath. If the ghat was maintained regularly, the problems could have been solved.”
The district administration has, in the meantime, decided to press into service 150 divers and boatmen for the security on all ghats right from Danapur to Patna City.
“During the two days of Chhath festivity, these men will be on patrol round the clock. They will be paid on a daily basis. While the divers will get Rs 245 each, a boatman will get Rs 350. The number of boatmen and divers may be increased on the basis of the size of the crowd and requirement,” an official pointed out.