At least 16 lakh pilgrims took the holy dip at Gangasagar on the occasion of Makar Sankranti on Saturday and offered puja at the Kapil Muni temple, Bengal Panchayat and Rural Development Minister Subrata Mukherjee said.
The pilgrims started taking the holy dip from 2.52 am onwards and the auspicious time for the dip will be over after 2.15 am.
State ministers including Firhad Hakim, Sobhandeb Chatterjee, Manturam Pakhira, Giauddin Mollah were present to oversee the work carried out by the state government. Senior officials of South 24 Parganas headed by the District Magistrate PB Salim and senior officials of state Panchayat and Rural Development department and Public Health Engineering department were present. The state government has set up over 8,000 toilets for the pilgrims. Around 5,000 police officers and 8,000 constables have been deployed to maintain peace. Bharat Sevasram Sangha along with its volunteers are providing food to the pilgrims. Medical camps have been set up and drones have been deployed to intensify surveillance by air while coast guard jawans are keeping a watch on the waterfront.
The temperature was 11.9 degrees Celsius. Special puja was held at Kapil Muni ashram. Volunteers guided the pilgrims on their way to the confluence of Bay of Bengal and river Hooghly to take the holy dip. Special drives have been taken to keep the mela ground clean and “no to plastic” has been made the theme of this year’s mela.
The pilgrims reached Sagar Island on Friday afternoon and were put up in makeshift camps. The entire mela ground has been brightly illuminated. Water pouches were distributed among the pilgrims. The police are keeping a strict vigil to stop plying of unauthorised vessels. The names of the pilgrims are being registered before they boarded the vessels. This has been done to stop overloading of boats which had led to accidents in the past.
Special police arrangements have been made to ensure that the vehicles carrying the passengers from the mela ground back home maintains speed. There are private cars and buses carrying pilgrims from other states. Hundreds of people took a holy dip at different ghats in the city and Howrah from early morning. Special police arrangements were made in the ghats to maintain peace. Divers were kept ready to face any accident. Kite flying which is a part of Makar Sankranti observation in some districts like Hooghly and Howrah was held with great enthusiasm.
Ganga Prasad a 62-year-old man from Ghazipur district from Uttar Pradesh fainted due to heart failure and was shifted to a hospital in Kolkata, after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s instruction.