Nearly 20 lakh devotees from across the country and even overseas took a holy dip on Sunday at the confluence of River Ganga and the Bay of Bengal on the occasion of Makar Sankranti.
South 24 Parganas district magistrate Y Ratnakara Rao said, “Nearly 20 lakh people have arrived at the Gangasagar today(Sunday) to take the dip and attend the fair. Last year, we had received around 15 lakh pilgrims. This year, we expect more than 20 lakh pilgrims as another dip will happen tomorrow at the crack of dawn.”
Rao said around 500 additional CCTV cameras have been installed along the entire stretch of around 120 km from Babughat in Kolkata to the Sagar Island at Gangasagar to monitor movement of pilgrims as well as keeping a close tab on security arrangements.
“We have equipped our officials with satellite phones for the first time for uninterrupted communication and to ensure real time feedback along with the CCTV footage, which is being constantly monitored by a team of officials at the central control room,” Rao said.
The Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Police and two battalions of the NDRF along with over 3,000 police personnel have been engaged in ensuring a tight security cover for the huge mass of pilgrims. Seven drones are also being used as a security backup.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has said that with a large congregation like the one in Gangasagar, the fair should be accorded the status of Kumbh Mela.
Banerjee's demand is backed by Shankaracharya of Puri Swami Nischalananda Saraswati, who is attending the Gangasagar fair this year.
Pilgrims take a dip at the confluence of the Ganga and the sea on the occasion of Makar Sankranti and then offer prayers at the temple of Kapil Muni, a Hindu mythical hermit.