Ganga Sagar mela: 20 lakh people take holy dip, says DM

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Ganga Sagar: Around 20 lakh devotees from across the country and outside took holy dip at Ganga Sagar, which is the confluence of river Ganga and Bay of Bengal, on January 14 morning on the occasion of Makar Sankranti. The footfall on January 14 surpassed the total number of people who visited the Mela so far. State Panchayat Minister Subrato Mukherjee said that, “Around 18 to 20 lakh people have already visited Gangasagar Mela this year.”
South 24 Parganas District Magistrate Y Ratnakara Rao told PTI that around 20 lakh devotees from across the country and neighboring Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh took a dip January 14. According to a senior police officer of South 24 Parganas district, the event went smoothly and there was no report of any untoward incident from Ganga Sagar, which is also known as Sagar Island. The devotees before taking the dip also offered prayers at Kapil Muni Temple. With prayers on their lips, the devotees jostled for space since early hours to take a dip in the holy water.
A blanket of heavy security cover was thrown in the area. The state government deployed over 3,000 policemen and pressed into service seven drones for the safety of pilgrims. “I have come here for the first time for the holy snan (dip). All arrangements have been done keeping in mind comfort of the pilgrims,” Satish Tiwary, from Maharashtra’s Yavatmal, said.
“We are coming to Ganga Sagar for the last 20 years and our experience this year was the best. Starting from security arrangements, accommodations, transport and guidance of the state administration and private agencies were simply unparalleled,” Ashutosh Diwedi, who visited the island for the holy dip, said. The state government has given satellite phones to its officials to ensure uninterrupted connectivity during the Mela. The administration has also installed 500 CCTV cameras along the over 100-km route from Babughat in Kolkata to the Sagar Island.
The government has come up with an innovative Sagar Sanjog Scheme for providing real-time information regarding transport facilities for pilgrims. The disaster management department has made arrangements to get live feed from the mela area to help effectively monitor the proceedings there. As part of security arrangements, the state has also introduced a real-time monitoring system — the Tirtha Sathi.
Besides, 60 giant LED screens have been placed at different points through which pilgrims would be updated about the timings and tariffs of trains, buses and ferries, tide timings as well as safety precautions. “This information will be provided in three languages — Bengali, Hindi and English — to facilitate the largest number of pilgrims,” he said.
Two battalions of the NDRF have been deployed at Ganga Sagar to mitigate any eventuality during the Mela. In addition, the Coast Guard and the marine police have been deployed at the Sagar Island.

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