West Bengal government on Saturday said the number of devotees visiting the Gangasagar Mela at Sagar Island on the occasion of Makar Sankranti on Sunday will beat all previous records. “Around 18 to 20 lakh people have already visited Gangasagar Mela this year. Tomorrow, all previous records will be broken,” Panchayat Minister Subrato Mukherjee said at Sagar Island.
“Last year around 15 lakh pilgrims had visited the mela. This year, already we have crossed that mark and nearly 20,00,000 people are here. We have made all the arrangements for them so that they can have a memorable outing here,” South 24 Parganas District Magistrate Y Ratnakara Rao told PTI. The six-day mela, which began on January 11, is being manned by drones and CCTVs and officials being equipped with 16 satellite phones for the first time.
Other special features include a special website for missing devotees, Wifi zones, increased power supply to Sagar Island and mobile washrooms. “This time, we have arranged 10,000 washrooms… mobile washrooms have also been made functional. Moreover, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who visited the Sagar Island a few days ago, wanted that during the mela, announcements should also made be in Hindi… Also, extra efforts have been made to ensure cleanliness in the area,” said Mukherjee.
Personnel from the Coast Guard, Army, NDRF, marine police and state police have been deployed at the mela. Officials said around 100 quick response teams (QRT) have been deployed at transit points like Lot 8, Namkhana, Chemaguri and Kachuberia to handle emergency situations. Also, around 50 boats have been pressed into service for emergency purposes. Police said around 3,000 civic volunteers have been deployed to assist pilgrilms. Further, the over 100-km route from Babughat in Kolkata to the Sagar Island is being covered by 500 CCTV cameras, said officials.
Moreover, the state government has also come up with an innovative ‘Sagar Sanjog Scheme’ for providing real-time information regarding transport facilities to devotees. Also, as part of the security arrangements, the government has introduced a real-time monitoring system — the ‘Tirtha Sathi’. “By using Tirtha Sathi, senior administrative and police officers will be able to watch live footages of all the transit and other crucial points, relayed via CCTV cameras, on their mobile phones,” the DM said.
Besides, 60 giant LED screens have been placed at different points, through which, pilgrims would be updated about the timings and fare tariffs of trains, buses and ferries, tide timings as well as safety precautions. “These information will be provided Bengali, Hindi and English to facilitate the largest number of pilgrims,” the DM said.
This year, a website has been launched to help trace those who may go missing at the mela. The website has been developed by the West Bengal Disaster Management Department, state police, state Inter Agency Group and NGO National Institute of Amateur Radio. “Once a person goes missing, his basic details, along with his description and contact number, will be uploaded on the portal. Then, a docket number will be generated… which could be used by the missing person’s relatives to keep track of the case,” said an official.
The government, meanwhile, has decided to double the power supply to Sagar Island. A senior official at the power department said power supply to the Sagar Island has been increased from 8.9 million units (MU) to 16 MU per day. “This has been decided keeping in mind the interests of millions of people visiting the Sagar Island. We will be supplying 16 MU every day for the next few days,” the official said.
Six power generators have also been set up at the venue to address any emergency situation. “At least 10 centres have been set up at the mela ground… Of the 300 power department officials assigned on duty at the fair, 50 will be stationed at these centres… The electrical apparatuses, including the high and low-tension wires, have been repaired,” said the official.