Labourers remove moss from the stairs of Hatania pond in Ranchi on Friday. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Watch out as you go down the pond steps to offer arghya to the sun during Chhath. Or else, you just might end up with a broken hand or a fractured leg.
For, most ghats in the state capital — some of which are laden with the slippery moss — are far from safe with the administration yet to notify the dangerous zones. A rough survey of the ponds, where thousands of Chhath devotees are likely to turn up in the evening of November 19 and the next morning to pray, confirmed this.
The most dangerous of the lot is Hatania Talab at Nakshatra Van near Raj Bhavan. Expected to draw more than 50,000 devotees, including VIPs and VVIPs like the chief minister and his family, on Chhath, the stairs of the pond are so treacherous that one can land in the water if he or she is not careful. After the last step, the pond takes a sudden straight dip of about 10 feet. However, till date, no measure was taken to rectify the faulty construction or make arrangements to prevent accidents.
But when contacted, R.D. Tiwary, a forest department official deputed to make the ghat fit for use during Chhath, said that everything would be in order by Saturday.
“Today, I deputed labourers to get rid off the moss from the steps. Once that’s done, we will demarcate the safe zone by putting up bamboos and ropes. On Chhath, two boats, carrying at least four divers, will be ready for rescue operations in case of any accident,” he said.
However, he also conceded that such arrangements ought to have been in place by now.
Another “danger” territory is Ranchi lake, a popular tourist destination which is located in the heart of the town and is expected to witness a rush of about one lakh devotees. With just two days left for the festival, no one was in sight, marking out the danger zones or clearing the moss at the water body.
At Argora pond, several ditches can easily turn into mishap magnets. A local resident, Arun Sahu, informed that the gaping holes in the pond were formed when a heavy earthmover was deputed to remove soil from its bed.
“The earthmover dug out soil in a haphazard manner, creating ditches. That was during summer. Work stopped in monsoon and soon rainwater filled the holes. Now, the lake has become dangerous. If proper precaution is not taken, one can drown in one of the ditches inside the pond,” he said.
But Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) believes that there is still time to go about the process of demarcating safe zones at the ponds. Chief executive officer of the civic body Dipankar Panda said: “Steps for demarcating safe zones will be taken with the help of Mahanagar Chhath Puja Samiti once water is properly cleaned after the end of immersion. I am hopeful that work will be completed by Saturday evening.”