Amid Surge of Cases, Calcutta HC Allows Ganga Sagar Mela With COVID Protocol
The court has asked for the formation of a three-member committee that will ensure compliance to COVID protocol.
After much deliberation, the Calcutta High Court on Friday, 7 January, allowed the state government to organise the Gangasagar Mela amid the fresh surge in COVID-19 cases. However, the court has imposed certain restrictions and asked the state government to act upon it immediately.
The division bench comprising Chief Justices Prakash Srivastava and Kesang Doma Bhutia in their order asked the state government to issue a notification declaring Gangasagar Island as a "notified area" within 24 hours from the pronouncement of the judgment.
The court order also asked the West Bengal Home Secretary to ensure that restrictions imposed by the state government are implemented without any lapse in Gangasagar Island during the Mela period.
The Home Secretary has been asked to issue advertisements in the daily newspapers widely circulated in West Bengal and also through the electronic media making the people aware of the risk of visiting Gangasagar Island between January 8-16 in large numbers. He will also make an appeal to the people to stay safe and desist from visiting the island during this time.
3-Member Committee To Ensure Compliance to COVID Protocol
The court has asked for the formation of a three-member committee, including the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly or his representative, West Bengal Human Rights Commission Chairman or his representative and the state representative, who will keep a vigil in respect of compliance of the above directions, as well as the measures suggested by the state government in its affidavit.
The government in its affidavit submitted before the court said it will be ensured that all persons and pilgrims, including sadhus, sanyasis (hermit) and people coming from other states to the Gangasagar Mela ground and its immediate precincts mandatorily use face masks, maintain social distancing and use sanitisers.
It must be ensured that all persons concerned with the control and management of the Gangasagar Mela such as government officials, police personnel, medical personnel, volunteers and all other aiding state machinery use face masks, maintain social distancing and sanitisers.
10k Police Personnel to Be Deployed
From January 9, deployment of 10,000 police personnel and nearly 5,000 volunteers will be started exclusively from South 24 Parganas, the state government said.
A sufficient number of face masks and sanitisers would be made available for distribution to those not having them. Healthcare volunteers would be deployed at strategic points to spread awareness among the pilgrims and other people for maintaining COVID-19 protocol and distributing masks and sanitisers.
So far only two doctors and a few health workers have been infected with COVID-19. A temporary hospital has been set up at the Mela ground itself, which has an area of 2 km radius.
On the last day of the hearing, the court had taken into account an affidavit filed by the government which listed the measures taken by the latter to curb the spread of COVID-19 at the Mela. The court had then reserved the judgment for a day.
The court was adjudicating upon a plea filed by Avinandan Mondal, a doctor by profession, who said that the infection may spread further as nearly 30 lakh pilgrims visit the religious fair at Sagar Island every year.
Accordingly, he sought directions to stop the Gangasagar Mela this year as West Bengal has been witnessing an exponential rise in the number of COVID-19 cases.
Every year on Makar Sankranti, lakhs of Hindu devotees flock to the Sagar Island in West Bengal's South 24 Parganas to take a holy dip and offer prayers at the Kapil Muni temple. This year, the Mela is scheduled to take place from January 8 to 16.
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