| Pilgrims at the Sindhi ghat in Sultanganj on Sunday. Picture by Amit Kumar |
Kanwariyas continue to face problems during pilgrimage despite assurances by the chief minister and the district administration to make the occasion a success this time.
On Sunday, more than 1.35 lakh pilgrims assembled here from different parts of the country and abroad to fetch water from the Ganga at Sindhi ghat before heading to Deoghar to offer prayers to Lord Baidya Nath on the occasion of second Somwari on Monday.
On Saturday, more than 1.25 lakh kanwariyas had left for Deoghar from Sultanganj.
From collecting water from the riverbanks at Sindhi ghat to travelling the 85-km stretch of the kanwariya path passing through Bhagalpur, Munger and Banka districts, the pilgrims have to face various difficulties.
Raj Kumar Thapa, a pilgrim from Pokhra in Nepal, said: “This year, water is not available at Sindhi ghat because of the shift of river course. At present, the ghat has become slippery because of soil erosion. Many of us slipped at the ghat this (Sunday) morning while taking water from the river.”
A senior officer of Sultanganj, on condition of anonymity, said: “The district administration has made the provision of sprinkling sand on the riverbanks and on the kanwariya path. But the contractor assigned the job is not doing the work properly.”
The alternative kanwariya path (a walking road beside Bhagalpur-Tarapur-Kototia road), which was prepared by the state government in 2011-12, became so muddy that the pilgrims have been avoiding it and taking the main road.
Sumitra Devi, a pilgrim from New Delhi at Asarganj, said: “The alternative road is filled with mud and is encroached by local people. So, we take the main road from Sultanganj to Shivnandanpur.”
“At many places, shopkeepers and owners of private dharamshalas on the kanwariya path managed to divert pilgrims from the new route to the old one for their vested interests,” a Belhar resident said.
Many pilgrims also complained that there was no lights on the kanwariya path. They had to cross the difficult route with the help of torches at Naxalite-affected areas in Belhar, Katoria and Suia. However, police patrol the kanwariya path passing through the areas.
The district magistrate was not available for comment. “Shravani Mela is one of the longest fairs in the world where pilgrims travel throughout the month from Sultanganj to Deoghar. The Union government should take steps to ensure safety of the pilgrims during their journey,” said Deromoy Doragi, a pilgrim from Sikkim, who has been coming here for the past 10 years with his wife, Simpi Doragi.