‘COVID Tests, Distancing: Gangasagar Mela 2021 Through Our Lens’

The pilgrimage site has various COVID guidelines in place this year.

Published
My Report
3 min read
The Gangasagar Mela, a significant pilgrimage site during Makar Sankranti has various COVID guidelines in place this year.
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Each year, thousands of devotees gather at Sagar Island on Makar Sankranti and take a dip at the confluence of the Ganga and the Bay of Bengal. This marks the beginning of Gangasagar Mela, considered the second largest public congregation after the Kumbh Mela.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the West Bengal government has decided to put in place several guidelines to be followed by devotees. For example, several camps have been set up for testing and quarantine of pilgrims. As per guidelines, those with symptoms are to be tested before entering.

The testing centre at Babughat
The testing centre at Babughat
(Photo Courtesy: Koushik Das)

The state’s public health engineering department has constructed a testing centre at Babughat. The Kolkata Municipal Corporation has declared the area a containment zone ahead of the rush. The Gangasagar Mela will culminate on 16 January.

When we visited the site on 12 January, we saw pilgrims undergo a rapid antigen test at the entrance. There is also temperature checks for all visitors, and only those without symptoms, or those who test negative are allowed to proceed to Gangasagar.

Media personnel who were present to document the congregation were subjected to checks as well.

A healthcare worker collecting the swab sample of a devotee.
A healthcare worker collecting the swab sample of a devotee.
(Photo Courtesy: Koushik Das)
Temperature checks being done at the entrance.
Temperature checks being done at the entrance.
(Photo Courtesy: Koushik Das)

Several KMC doctors are present at the site for the service of the pilgrims. One team of medical officers has been dedicated for health check-ups, while another for conducting COVID tests.

However, we observed that it was tough to maintain the staggered entry or social distancing due to the inflow of devotees.

<i>Sadhus and d</i>evotees sanitize their hands at the entrance.
Sadhus and devotees sanitize their hands at the entrance.
(Photo Courtesy: Koushik Das)
Sanitization tunnels are set up at the site
Sanitization tunnels are set up at the site
(Photo Courtesy: Koushik Das)

Many workers and police officers are also deployed to check whether COVID guidelines are being followed.

KMC workers check to ensure that COVID guidelines are being followed.&nbsp;
KMC workers check to ensure that COVID guidelines are being followed. 
(Photo Courtesy: Koushik Das)
Police patrol the campus to ensure COVID guidelines are being adhered to.&nbsp;
Police patrol the campus to ensure COVID guidelines are being adhered to. 
(Photo Courtesy: Koushik Das)

Since devotees have travelled from across India, some even from Nepal, shelters have been made for them to quarantine and then commence their journey. Langars are also being provided for pilgrims.

Langar service is provided for pilgrims
Langar service is provided for pilgrims
(Photo Courtesy: Koushik Das)

A KMC official told us that while footfall is less, as compared to previous years, the numbers are high and some of them are not cooperative.

The <i>Gangasagar Mela </i>this year
The Gangasagar Mela this year
(Photo Courtesy: Koushik Das)

While there have been concerns raised regarding the pilgrimage this year, the government is warning people to maintain COVID protocols during their journey.

Health experts say that the devotees should avoid going unless absolutely necessary. The Calcutta High Court on 13 January laid emphasis on the need for 'e-snan (e-bathing) to avoid crowding. Whether or not devotees will be able to take a dip in a staggered way remains to be seen.

(All ‘My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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