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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 25 June 2024

CM plea to pilgrims: Keep Mela a low-key affair this time

Mamata Banerjee who paid a visit to the pilgrims’ base camp at Babughat in the afternoon, repeatedly emphasised the seriousness of the omicron-induced third wave

Meghdeep Bhattacharyya Calcutta Published 13.01.22, 01:31 AM
Gangasagar Island on Wednesday morning before a large number of pilgrims arrived later in the day.

Gangasagar Island on Wednesday morning before a large number of pilgrims arrived later in the day. Mehaboob Gazi

Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday urged Gangasagar pilgrims to keep celebrations low-key this time and ensure strict adherence to Covid-19 safety protocols, underscoring the need to comply with Calcutta High Court’s directives on the Mela.

The Bengal chief minister, who paid a visit to the pilgrims’ base camp at Babughat in the afternoon, repeatedly emphasised the seriousness of the omicron-induced third wave.

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“Never before had Covid-19 spread so much. It is touching almost everyone in a family, when one person gets it…. I would like to request you, please don’t send many people,” she said.

“There are restrictions imposed by the court. Abiding by every high court restriction is our reality. We must abide by them,” added Mamata. “The high court has clearly said that whoever does not have an (negative) RT-PCR (report), they cannot go.”

The chief minister was apparently referring to the modified order by the high court division bench headed by Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava on Tuesday, which made RT-PCR tests and administration of both doses of Covid-19 vaccines mandatory to enter the Mela. One would have to produce a negative RT-PCR test report not older than 72 hours and the certificate of full immunisation to enter Sagar Island.

“Do things only to the extent possible, while adhering to safety protocols… this time. This time, there is no need to go big. No matter how small, do it with all your heart…. Take it easy this time, keep it small-scale,” said Mamata.

The state government’s decision to allow the Gangasagar Mela – an annual ceremonial fair for religious Hindus that draws lakhs of pilgrims – this year, more so during the ongoing third wave of the pandemic, has triggered criticism from the Opposition in Bengal.

Since Calcutta High Court – despite a plea before it to put a stop to the Mela for this year – allowed it conditionally, with certain restrictions, the state government has been trying to address the very many challenges of ensuring compliance.

Lauding the relentless work of the frontliners, Mamata said the extent of the outbreak caused by the omicron variant has made her “sad”.

“Those who have come from outside… you please take care. If anybody has Covid-19, please keep that person isolated. If need be, take police support,” said Mamata, speaking mostly in Hindi.

“If a single Covid-19 patient travels in a vehicle, everyone in that vehicle will get infected. That is why, those of you (in groups) from your villages, I appeal to you… please monitor these things…. Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, wherever you have come from, I welcome you. But ensuring your physical well-being is of utmost importance. Please cooperate with the Mela committee,” she said, adding that her government has ensured insurance of Rs 5 lakh for each pilgrim.

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