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Makar Sankranti: Millions of pilgrims gather at Gangasagar to take a holy dip

FE Online
Hindu pilgrims are expected to take the annual holy dip at Gangasagar (AP Photo)

On the occasion of Makar Sankranti, millions of pilgrims took a holy dip at Sagar Island in West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas on Wednesday. The devotees from foreign nations such as France, Russia and Australia, also arrived at the Island to witness the auspicious occasion. On this day in January, people from various places visited the Island and took a religious bath before offering prayers at Kapil Muni Ashram temple.

The Sagar Island is located at a distance of about 130 km from Kolkata at the confluence of the Hooghly river and the Bay of Bengal. This fair is also known as Gangasagar pilgrimage. It is considered to be the second-largest congregation of devotees after the Kumbh Mela.

To manage this event, a three-layer security arrangement with CCTV cameras, hovercraft and copters, are made to ensure all-round safety of the pilgrims. A total of 20 drones have also been deployed to monitor the situation. A team of five divers have been deployed in the site to carry out underwater rescue operations, if required. The Coast Guard is also monitoring the area with air surveillance operations from Kolkata.

Apart from all these, a total of 120 personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been deployed in three teams, at Sagar Island, Kechuberia and Kakdwip with their disposal motorboats and deep-diving sets.

In a bid to make the Gangasagar Mela smooth, the district administration is using QR code wrist bands, mobile apps ‘Atithi Path’ and a software ‘Sagar Suraksha’ for the crowd monitoring system to help the pilgrims. The app ‘Atithi Path’ provides information about the fare, route chart, timings of tide, vessel and puja.

The West Bengal government is also providing insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh for each individual who visits Gangasagar till January 17, 2020. Earlier, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee directed the administration to take necessary steps to ensure that Gangasagar 2020 is accident-free.