The high court-appointed committee submitted a report on the ongoing Gangasagar Mela in West Bengal and has recommended that the entry of people should be banned as they were “dissatisfied” with the arrangements made by the state government amidst the Covid-19 third wave, according to sources.
Now, it is up to the Mamata Banerjee government to decide whether it would continue with the Mela, which will see more tourists arriving for the ‘Ganga Aarti’ tomorrow on the occasion of ‘Makar Sankranti’.
The high court order on January 10 said, “In case of any shortcoming in compliance of the direction of this Court is noticed or it is found that gathering in Mela is leading to spread of COVID virus then the Committee will make a recommendation to the State without any delay to ban entry in the Sagar Islands, on which the competent authority of the State will take immediate action.”
Shashi Panja, Minister in Charge, Department of Women and Child Development and Social Welfare, who is at present in Gangasagar, said “We all are trying that the court order and Covid protocols are maintained.”
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Thousands of pilgrims from neighbouring states on their way to the Gangasagar Mela, which stated on January 8, were found thronging the premises. Despite the efforts of the administration, pilgrims were seen flouting all Covid norms. Though some were found wearing masks, social distancing was not followed at all.
At every entry point, the state government officials were placed to check the RTPCR and vaccination certificates. Commenting on the situation, an officer appointed at one such checkpoint said “with so many pilgrims coming at one go, it is becoming difficult to check everyone.”
Although the administration has ensured all Covid-19 norms are followed as per the court order, it is practically impossible to test every pilgrim.
On Wednesday evening, the two-member committee reached Sagar island. They had an hour-long meeting with the district administration in which various issues were discussed. Sources said certain suggestions were given on how to maintain the high court order. The committee members inspected the premises and left but the administration stayed longer till the evening for another meeting.
The two-member monitoring committee comprises Retd Justice Samapti Chattopadhyay and a member of state legal services authority.
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