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The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sankranti capers with care Security slumber ahead of ritual

Residents willing to take a dip in the Ganga on Makar Sankranti should do it at their own risk, as the district administration has not made any security arrangement at the ghats despite last year’s Chhath tragedy.

As many as 17 people had died in the Chhath stampede at Adalat Ghat on November 19, 2012.

The Telegraph on Sunday visited a few ghats to take stock of the safety arrangements made by the district administration for Monday’s Ganga Snan (bath) ritual on the occasion of Makar Sankranti. The finding was a jolt — there was no sign of any barricade on the banks or volunteers to avert any accident. All that the district administration can do is to depend upon National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and state disaster management department personnel.

“Around 8,000-10,000 people take dip at Darbhanga House Ghat on Makar Sankranti every year. People start thronging the ghat since 4.30am. By 6am, the ghat becomes very crowded. The administration should have made some kind of arrangement by now to control the crowd on Monday. Else, there can be a chaos any moment,” said Mantu Kumar, 32, a resident of Ashok Rajpath.

“As of now, they have done nothing. The administration could have at least erected barricades like they had done on the occasion of Kartik Purnima. How can anybody gauge the depth of the water unless he or she is alerted by a barricade?” he asked.

The district administration does not appear to have any answer. Rather, the Ganga Snan ritual is not at all a “big occasion” for them. “I do not think that many people will come for the Ganga Snan. It is not a big occasion. That’s the reason the district administration has not made any specific arrangement at the ghats,” additional dis- trict magistrate (law and order) Ramesh Prasad told The Telegraph.

Assistant deputy collector (relief) Anirudh Kumar said: “Only two ghats — Krishna Ghat and Gandhi Ghat — in Patna will have safety measures. NDRF teams, divers and volunteers will be deployed there. We will check overloading on boats. The residents can always call up the district control room (0612-2219810) in case of any emergency.” He added: “We have not done any barricading because the number of people would be less. However, we will be alert around the clock.” The city has 76 ghats.

The police department, however, differs on the number of people expected to visit the ghats on Makar Sankranti.

“A large number of devotees are likely to visit the ghats for the Ganga Snan ritual,” Patna City superintendent of police Jayant Kant said.

He added that around 1,500 additional security personnel have been deployed at different ghats and en route to Sabbalpur Diara where chief minister Nitish Kumar is scheduled to visit on Monday.

The officer said he has reviewed the security arrangements at all the important ghats, including Adalat Ghat, Kali Ghat and Gandhi Ghat on the eve of Makar Sankranti.

Principal secretary (disaster management department) Vyasji said: “There would be adequate number of volunteers and divers on the banks of the river and continuous patrolling will be conducted on steamers.”