Around 20 lakh devotees from across the country and neighbouring Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh on Sunday took a holy dip at the confluence of the Ganga and the Bay of Bengal in West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas district on the occasion of Makar Sankranti.
“So far around 20 lakh devotees have taken a dip in the holy water here. Everything went smoothly and there is no report of any untoward incident,” South 24 Parganas District Magistrate Y Ratnakara Rao told PTI.
With prayers on their lips, the devotees jostled for space since early hours to take a dip in the holy water at Ganga Sagar, also known as ‘Sagardwip’.
Every year, on Makar Sankranti day, an ocean of pilgrims gather here to take a dip at the confluence of the Ganga and the Bay of Bengal and offer prayers in the Kapil Muni Temple.
A woman was killed and eight others injured when the bus in which they were travelling to Sagar Island met with an accident near Kachuberia, Rao said.
Sugiya Devi (65), a resident of Jharkhand’s Palamu district, was injured in the accident and rushed to a nearby hospital, where she was declared brought dead, the DM said.
A blanket of heavy security cover has been thrown in the area. The state government has deployed over 3,000 policemen and pressed into service seven drones to for 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, a devotee 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 unparallelled,” 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.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Sunday said that starting this year, the West Bengal government would celebrate Makar Sankranti as ‘Lok Sanskriti Dibas’ to promote folk artistes of the state.
She extended her greetings to the people on the occasion of Makar Sankranti.
“Wishing everyone the best on the occasion of Makar Sankranti. From this year, we will be celebrating this day as Lok Sanskriti Dibas in #Bengal to promote the folk artistes of our State,” Banerjee wrote on Twitter.