• Drone bath, triple check: Steps to curb crowding at Gangasagar
    Times of India | 14 January 2022
  • KOLKATA: Around 2 lakh pilgrims reached Gangasagar on Thursday afternoon for the holy Makar Sankranti dip, keeping the district administration on its toes.

    The inclement weather and triple-screening at three points before stepping on the Sagar Island have slowed down the crowd flow. There were around 5 lakh people there last January and it usually draws about 13 lakh-15 lakh for the dip.

    “The crowds are thinner. The weather has improved this morning so more people may reach by night,” said Sunderbans affairs minister and local MLA Bankim Hazra, who was among the ministers supervising at the spot.

    Both Kapilmuni temple and the beach will have restricted access with drop gates and barricades. Only a limited number of pilgrims will be allowed to take holy dip at a time. In a first, the district administration has arranged for sprinkling of holy water using drones on pilgrims standing in earmarked zones along the bank. Rows of vessels with holy water have been kept for devotees in a zone around Kapilmuni Ashram and drop gates have been installed to prevent more than 50 pilgrims on the temple premises at a time.

    State minister Shashi Panja said, “Having cleared the three buffer zones, we presume those arriving here are mostly fine. There are additional measures being taken here.” Police were seen asking everyone to use masks and those who weren’t wearing them were given masks. The pilgrims were also being sanitized. Kolkata mayor Firhad Hakim was supervising the arrangements.

    On Thursday, cops in Kolkata allowed pilgrims with vaccination certificates and asymptomatic thermal checks to go on. According to sources, while the rapid antigen tests helped KMC and cops segregate around 120 infected people, there was still a section awaiting RT-PCR results.

    “We had tried to segregate those awaiting results. but with Makar Sankranti on Friday, none was ready to stay back. It has been decided to let them proceed towards Kachuberia where the South 24 Parganas administration has arranged for contact tracing and segregation. We have phone numbers of those who have undergone RT-PCR tests in Kolkata. The reports will be sent to the DM’s office there. We also have phone numbers of group leaders whom we have held accountable for bringing in a patient if s/he is infected and needs isolation. So far, such cases have been few,” said a source.

    Lalbazar officers monitoring the camps between Babughat and Bangabasi Grounds are asking transport department staffers to let the pilgrims board only after they show vaccination certificates.

    (With inputs from Dwaipayan Ghosh & Debashis Konar)
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