Chief minister Mamata Banerjee is likely to begin her two-day trip to Gangasagar on January 4 to oversee the preparedness for Gangasagar Mela, the annual religious congregation that is considered the largest after Kumbh.
Gangasagar Mela, which takes place on the southern tip of Bengal, will start on January 8 and continue till January 15.
“The chief minister will reach Gangasagar on January 4 afternoon by chopper from Calcutta. According to the communication from her office, she will return to Calcutta the next day. She will take stock of preparedness, including infrastructure and security, for the Gangasagar Mela,” said a senior government official.
Sources said the South 24-Parganas district administration was told about Mamata’s trip and asked to keep preparation details ready for her.
PWD minister Pulak Roy, irrigation minister Partha Bhowmik, and Sundarbans affair minister Bankim Hazara have already visited the fair venue in the run-up to Mamata’s visit.
During an administrative meeting on December 21, Mamata announced that she would be visiting Gangasagar to take stock of the preparedness at the fair venue.
Around 30 lakh people went to the Gangasagar Mela the last time. State government officials anticipate that the number of pilgrims will be more compared to the last time.
Anticipating a huge footfall this year, the state government has developed infrastructure at the Mela grounds. Mamata announced the decision to beef up security at the venue.
“A group of senior police officers, including the DGP, will be at Gangasagar this time to lead police teams under the directives of the chief minister. The state government doesn’t want to witness any untoward incident during Gangasagar Mela,” an official said.
The state government has already underlined the importance of security, transport, telecommunication, accommodation and medical facilities in its bid to ramp up preparations.
This time, because of the Covid-19 scare, at least eight testing units will come up on the fairgrounds. As of Saturday, no advisory on masks has been officially issued. An air ambulance and a few water (boat) ambulances will be deputed like every year. Ambulances will also be stationed on the fairgrounds.
Crowds are expected to swell the most on January 14, when Makar Sankranti falls.
As a high tide is expected to coincide with the holy dip on January 13 and 14, Mamata instructed the South 24-Parganas district administration to install lights so that security agencies can work properly in case of any untoward incident.
A senior official said although primary communication says that the chief minister will return to Calcutta on January 5, there are chances that she may extend her trip by a day.
“According to Nabanna, she has no other plan apart from taking stock of the preparedness at Gangasagar Mela,” said an official of South 24-Parganas.
Bengal on Saturday reported six new Covid-19 infections, four recoveries and no deaths. Currently, there are 49 active cases in the state, 47 in home isolation and two in hospitals. The state’s positive recovery rate was 98.98 per cent and mortality rate 1.02 per cent on Saturday. The case positivity rate was 0.13 per cent on a day 4,540 samples were tested.