Kolkata (West Bengal) [Kolkata]: The Calcutta High Court has given go-ahead to Gangasagar Mela on Friday with certain conditions after the State Government decided to go ahead with the Ganga Sagar Mela after taking necessary measures to contain COVID-19.
The Court order stated that a three-member Committee, comprising the leader of Opposition in the State, Chairman of West Bengal Human Rights Commission, representative of the State, is constituted to ensure compliance of measures suggested by the State on 6 January to contain COVID-19 in the Sagar island. The State will also take a decision to issue a notification in terms of Section 3 of the Ganga Sagar Mela Act, 1976 declaring the Sagar Island as a ‘notified area’ if necessary within a period of 24 hours.
If any shortcoming in compliance is noticed, then the Committee will make a recommendation to the State without any delay to ban entry on the island, on which the competent authority of the State will take immediate action. The Secretary of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission will coordinate between the Members of the Committee, stated the Calcutta HC.
The petitioner sought various directions to restrict and regulate the gathering of pilgrims, sadhus and tourists in Gangasagar Island during the Makar Sankranti period in view of the rising COVID-19 cases. On the occasion of Makar Sankranti, thousands of pilgrims gather to take a holy dip at the confluence of river Ganges and Bay of Bengal and offer prayer in the Kapil Muni Temple.
The court on Thursday observed that life is more important than religious practices. Apart from that, there is a possibility of the spread of the virus on account of oral droplets and nasal droplets in the river water and their percolation and transmission through the water when the infected pilgrims will take the holy dip.
The court instructed the state to ensure that all persons and pilgrims, including sadhus, sanyasis and citizens coming from other states to the Ganga Sagar Mela ground, mandatorily use face masks, maintain physical distancing and use sanitisers. The court also asked the state to make sure that all persons connected with the control and management of the Ganga Sagar Mela namely government officials, Police Personnel, medical personnel, volunteers use face masks, maintain physical distancing and use sanitisers. Apart from that Rapid Antigen Testing Centres, 5 RTPCR Testing Facilities and thermal checking facilities are put to place at all entry points including the railway stations Howrah and Sealdah.
The state informed the court that about 30,000 people have already visited the Mela ground and nearly 50,000 people including Sadhus have arrived at different locations. Due to the COVID-19 situation, the inflow of devotees has come down and it is expected that around 4 to 5 lakh pilgrims will arrive between 6 and 15 January.
However, the Doctors Forum doubts that none of the COVID-19 measures that the court has instructed would be carried out by the state government and the state’s affidavit on Gangasagar COVID-19 precautions is a mere eyewash to continue the Mela. Till now two doctors and a few healthcare workers have been COVID-19 affected. The doctors have also pointed out that the medical infrastructural facilities made available in the Ganga Sagar premises are not adequate to take care of the lakhs of pilgrims who are expected to visit the Mela.