Gangasagar Mela: More tents on beach for pilgrims
The South 24-Parganas district administration will demarcate land on Sagar island beach for building makeshift accommodations in anticipation of a high pilgrim turnout for the Gangasagar Mela starting on January 10.
Sources said the move comes despite renewed fears of a Covid surge.
Gangasagar Mela is the world’s second-largest human congregation after Prayag’s Kumbh Mela.
Held every year during Makar Sankranti at the confluence of the river Ganga and the Bay of Bengal, the fair was visited by nearly 30 lakh pilgrims last year. This could go up by a few more lakhs this year, government officials feel.
Additional district magistrate (G) of South 24-Parganas district, Siyad N., said: “We have enough accommodations for pilgrims. But we are expecting more pilgrims this year. For their lodging, we have to install more hangars and are preparing more land on the beaches for them.”
An official engaged in the preparations of the mela on the island told The Telegraph that at least six giant hangars were being erected on the beaches for lodging. The official added that two more hangars would be added to the existing six. He said each would be able to accommodate around 1,000 pilgrims.
This apart there will be hundreds of makeshift tents to accommodate the rush of pilgrims. “A large number of pilgrims also stay at dharamshalas on the beach,” the official added.
“Even though there is a new threat of a pandemic, neither the Centre nor the state has issued any strong restrictive protocols as of now that could discourage pilgrims from visiting Gangasagar this year. So we are hopeful that people will come in large numbers without fear, and we are making additional lodging arrangements,” Sagar BDO Sudipto Mondal said.
Sources said that to make the area conducive for lodging arrangements, reclaiming and restoration of the beach are being done. Work such as electrification is reportedly near completion.
Senior officials of the district administration led by district magistrate Sumit Gupta visited the island last Wednesday to review the arrangements.
The administration has geared up to upgrade infrastructure and bed capacities of the government-owned hospitals in adjacent areas in the wake of the fresh Covid threat.
“We have prepared a helipad. There will be one air ambulance, four water ambulances, and at least 100 ambulances ready to ferry patients as directed by the chief minister,” the BDO said.