|People jostle for space to take a holy dip during the Sonepur Mela last year. Telegraph picture Piyush Kumar Tripathi
The Sunday serial blasts at Gandhi Maidan have forced the authorities to take a slew of measures for preventing any untoward incident during next month’s Sonepur Mela.
According to rough estimates, around five lakh people — three lakh more than the turnout at BJP’s Hunkar Rally at Gandhi Maidan — will throng the fair, around 35km north of Patna, to take a holy dip in the Gandak on Kartik Purnima. The cattle fair — largest of its kind in Asia — starts on Kartik Purnima, which will be celebrated on November 16 this year.
For the first time, metal detectors at entry and exit points, bomb disposal squads and closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras among others would be used at the fair, sprawling across 25 acres. Preparation for the month-long fair would be completed by November 12 — four days before its inauguration.
Kundan Kumar, district magistrate, Saran, said on Wednesday: “The bomb blasts in Patna have been an eye-opener for the Sonepur Mela security arrangements. It is probably for the first time that we are going to have ‘access control’ at the entry-exit points. People would be frisked using doorframe or handheld metal detectors. We will also install CCTV cameras across the grounds.”
He added that an assessment of number of constables required for the fair had been done. “Apart from the personnel, we have requested for deployment of bomb disposal squad as well during the fair,” said Kumar. Kumar and superintendent of police are scheduled to do a joint security review at Sonepur nagar panchayat on Thursday.
Sources in the state tourism department, the organiser of the fair, claimed that apart from the police forces and home guards, private security agencies would also be roped in by the event management firm from which it has already got Rs 1.39 crore for Sonepur Mela.
The firm has to install minimum 20 CCTV cameras across the ground under the district administration directive. They are also expected to provide fire extinguishers at every stall.
This year, Sonepur Mela would not be confined to being a mere cattle fair. It would be a multi-purpose fair incorporating all types of shopping, entertainment, and art and cultural activities.
Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation has also launched packaged tour via bus for Sonepur Mela.
The charges for the daylong trip are Rs 500 (without lunch) and Rs 700 (with lunch) per person.