Kolkata: In a controversial decision, the West Bengal government is going ahead with plans to organise the Sagar mela at the Sagar islands in the South 24 Parganas district.
Sagar mela, which is considered to be an auspicious event, equivalent to the Kumbh mela, attracts more than 1 million devotees who flock from mainly north Indian states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand to offer prayers to their ancestors in the Sagar Islands and to take a holy bath during the Sankranti time.
Interestingly, the State government has said in its affidavit to the High Court that it is capable to hold the mela this year with five lakh devotees and that they plan to deploy a police force of 10,000 for the security of the devotees and to hold the mela in the Sagar Sangam area where the Kapil Muni Ashrama is situated.
This submission comes in the background of the state recording 15,421 COVID-19 positive cases in the last 24 hours, and with night curfew being enforced. Schools and colleges in the state have already been closed down while restaurants and malls have been allowed to operate with 50% seating capacity. There are right now more than 41,000 active COVID-19 cases in the state as per reports.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on one side has urged the people to stay indoors. She however skirted reporters’ questions on the subject of holding Sagar mela, saying that the matter is being looked after by the High Court and is sub judice. However, the submission of her government to allow the fair has come in the affidavit whereby the state government has claimed that the fair can be held with 5 lakh devotees. Health practitioners in the state have marked the Ganga Sagar mela as a possible super spreader event as bathing in public during the fair will attract droplet infection.
With a favourable state government, though public life has otherwise come to a partial standstill in the state, the Outram ghat area of the city of Kolkata, a known transit point for Gangasagar devotees looked its best with sadhus from various akharas occupying places in their earmarked areas. Health and hygiene as always are questionable in the Ganga Sagar fair and the transit places.
It can be recalled that Mamata Banerjee while on administrative review meeting of South 24 Parganas district in the Ganga Sagar area had announced tough measures in view of rising Omicron variant cases. However, she allowed the revelers on Christmas and New Year Eve to enjoy their day out. Many thronged to areas like Park Street in Kolkata and to different fairs that are being organised by the State government in the different Park grounds of the state.
The decision to completely shut down schools and colleges of the state is an eyewash when the government is bent on allowing ritualistic mass public bathing, even as the third wave takes hold of West Bengal.