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Mamata Banerjee to inaugurate three helipads near Gangasagar Mela

Bengal government has taken up several initiatives to enhance communication and infrastructure in Sagar island

Snehamoy Chakraborty Calcutta Published 04.01.23, 03:25 AM
A helipad in Gangasagar on Tuesday.

A helipad in Gangasagar on Tuesday. Gautam Bose

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee will inaugurate on Wednesday three permanent helipads in Gangasagar, a move likely to provide faster transportation to the famous pilgrimage site at the southern tip of Bengal.

Sources said that Mamata, who would visit Gangasagar for two days from Wednesday, would land on one of the helipads and inaugurate the three-helipad complex, among a few others.

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Gangasagar Mela, the annual religious congregation considered the largest after Prayag’s Kumbh Mela, will begin on January 8 and continue till January 15.

Tourists will not be able to use the chopper services to Gangasagar this year.

However, a minister in Mamata’s cabinet said that the plan to introduce chopper services to Gangasagar would be on the lines of the chopper facilities available to pilgrims visiting other famed destinations such as Kedarnath.

“If helicopter services are available for pilgrimages such as Kumbh Mela and Kedarnath, we can also provide tourists air connectivity to help them reach Gangasagar from Calcutta within an hour. The public works department is chalking out a plan to find out when they can start the service for pilgrims. However, it is not possible to start the service this year,” said the minister.

Officials said that several devotees can afford a chopper ride to Gangasagar and would prefer it to the five-hour hectic journey on roads and across rivers.

Although Gangasagar is only 100km away from Calcutta, the journey is tedious because of the narrow roads and the time-consuming ferry ride.

Sources said PWD minister Pulak Roy had already visited the helipad complex and held meetings with senior officials on a plan to use the helipad for pilgrims in the near future.

The Bengal government has taken up several initiatives to enhance communication and infrastructure in Sagar island as lakhs of pilgrims, including a large number from other states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan, visit Gangasagar every year for a holy dip on the occasion of Makar Sankranti.

“The chief minister wants to raise the Gangasagar Mela to the stature of the Kumbh Mela to attract more people from across the country and abroad,” said a source.

The state government has also decided to apply to Unesco for an intangible heritage tag on the Gangasagar Mela. The government has already formed a committee and prepared a dossier for the purpose.

“We are expecting around 30 lakh pilgrims here this time. The chief minister will visit Gangasagar to oversee the preparations for the Mela,” said South 24-Parganas district magistrate Sumit Gupta.

Mamata is scheduled to land in Gangasagar on Wednesday afternoon and inaugurate the Banglar Mandir project. The project has models of five famous temples of Bengal, including Tarapith, Kalighat and Dakshineswar. The helipads apart, she will also inaugurate a few other projects, including a bridge in Kakdwip.

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