Central security forces have been for the first time involved to fortify the security arrangements for devotees in Muzaffarpur ahead of the Shravani Mela starting Sunday.
Ten lakh and odd devotees are expected to throng the Garibnath Temple in town to pray during the 25-day event. The district administration, on high alert especially since last year’s Bodhgaya blasts, has decided to involve Central Reserve Police Force and Sashastra Seema Bal officers to ensure the security of devotees.
Shravani Mela, which started on Sunday, would end on August 6.
At a review meeting ahead of the mela on Friday, zonal inspector-general Paras Nath, Muzaffarpur district magistrate Anupam Kumar and senior superintendent of police Jitendra Rana checked the preparations of the administration for the festival with members of the temple management committee.
The officials have decided to involve Central Reserve Police Force and Sashastra Seema Bal personnel for the first time this year to regulate the assembly of devotees, who would gather at the Garibnath Temple.
SSP Rana, without ruling out the possibility of threats from Maoists and criminals, said the Central Reserve Police Force and Sashastra Seema Bal officers have been alerted about strengthening security during Shravan.
Devotees walk to Pahleza Ghat in Patna district (near Hajipur) to collect water from the Ganga. Then they walk back to the Garibnath Temple in the heart of Muzaffarpur, around 85km away, to pay obeisance to Lord Shiva and offer Him the holy water.
“This year, the devotees will set out barefoot for Pahleza Ghat on July 12-13. The water collected from the Ganga would be then offered to Lord Shiva at Garibnath Temple on the first Monday of Shravan, July 14. The devotees will leave for Muzaffarpur in the early hours of Monday,” said K.P. Pappu, a member of the shrine’s mela committee.
Head priest of the temple Vinay Pathak said: “This time, at least 10 lakh devotees are expected to throng the temple for offering prayers.”
District magistrate Anupam said around 12 watchtowers have been set up in the town, en route to the temple, for strict surveillance to avert criminal incidents. Closed-circuit television cameras have also been installed inside and outside the temple for regular monitoring.
Close to 1,000 policemen would be deputed at the temple to regulate the flow of devotees and maintain security. Wooden and iron barricades would also be set up outside the temple, apart from metal detectors at the temple’s entrance.
Sources said potholes and ditches on the roads leading to the Garibnath Temple from Ramdayalu Nagar, on the outskirts of the town, are being covered and filled up on a war footing to facilitate a smooth trek for the barefoot devotees.
The devotees would also find makeshift camps en route to the temple where they can take rest. These camps are being set up with the help of social outfits.