Sagar Island: Millions of devotees from across the world, including France, Russia and Australia, have flocked to Sagar Island in West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas for taking a holy dip on the occasion of Makar Sankranti on Wednesday.
Every year during the auspicious occasion, pilgrims converge at Sagar Island, 130 km from Kolkata, to take a religious bath at the confluence of the Hooghly river and the Bay of Bengal and offer prayers at Kapil Muni Ashram.
The Gangasagar pilgrimage and fair is considered as the second largest congregation of mankind after the Kumbh Mela. Considering the importance and magnitude of the event, security forces, equipped with CCTVs, hovercraft and copters, have upped their arrangements in the area to ensure all-round safety of the pilgrims.
P Ulaganathan, the District Magistrate, said people from across the globe have turned up in large numbers to attend the annual congregation on the occasion of Makar Sankranti – with the administration, this year, using QR code-assisted wrist bands to monitor the crowd.
“The mela has recorded a footfall of 21 lakh till yesterday. We expect the numbers to touch 40 lakh. The devotees have come from across the globe, including Nepal, Australia, France and Russia,” he told PTI on Tuesday.
A total of 20 drones have been deployed to keep a close watch on the pilgrims, he said. “With the completion of Muriganga river dredging project, ferry operations have become smoother, with service being provided to the visitors for 18-20 hours every day,” Ulaganathan added.
A senior Coast Guard official stated that a team of five divers have been deployed in the area with inflatable boats for carrying out underwater operations, if any.
“Apart from that, two hovercraft and six ships are patrolling the seafront. A three-layer security is in place, with air surveillance operations being monitored from Kolkata,” Commander of Coast Guard, West Bengal, and its Deputy Inspector General S R Dash said.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) said it has deployed a total of 120 personnel, divided into three teams, for the Gangasagar mela.
“The teams are stationed at Sagar Island, Kechuberia and Kakdwip. They also have at their disposal motor boats and deep diving sets,” the NDRF said in a statement.
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