SAGAR ISLAND: Nearly 20 lakh devotees from different corners of the country as well countries like Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh have gathered to take a holy dip at the confluence of river Ganga and Bay of Bengal on Makar Sankranti on Sunday.
"Last year around 15 lakh pilgrims had visited the Ganga Sagar. This year already we have crossed that mark and nearly 20,00,000 people are here. We have made all the arrangements for them so that they can have a memorable outing here," South 24 Parganas district magistrate Y Ratnakara Rao said.
A thick blanket of security cover has been placed at the famous spot. The state government has deployed around 3,000 policemen and also pressed into service seven drones to keep a tab on the security as well as the safety of pilgrims taking a holy dip tomorrow.
In fact, for the first time the state government has equipped its officials with satellite phones to ensure uninterrupted connectivity during the Ganga Sagar Mela.
"These satellite phones will ensure that communication is not hampered even if there is an earthquake or a tsunami, among other things," another senior official of the state government told PTI adding that 16 satellite phones has been given to the officers who will be on duty at critical locations.
Incidentally, the state government has come up with an innovative Sagar Sanjog Scheme, for providing real-time information regarding the movement of transport facilities for people and vehicles too.
The state government has also decided to cover over 100 km route from Babughat in Kolkata to the Sagar Island with 500 CCTVs as a part of its security coverage for the grand annual fair.
The state disaster management department would be getting live feed from the mela area to help effectively monitor the proceedings there.
As a part of the security arrangements, the state has also introduced a real-time monitoring system -- the Tirtha Sathi.
"Using the Tirtha Sathi senior administrative and police officers will be able to watch live footages of all the transit and other crucial points, relayed via CCTV cameras, on their mobile phones," Rao said.
Besides, 60 giant LED screens have been placed at different points through which pilgrims would be updated about the timings and fare tariffs of trains, buses and ferries, tide timings as well as safety precautions.
"These information will be provided in three languages Bengali, Hindi and English to facilitate the largest number of pilgrims," he said.
Talking more on the arrangements, Rao said that the carrying-capacity of barges plying from Lot 8 on the mainland to Kachuberia at the Sagar Island has been doubled this year.
Meanwhile, two battalion of the NDRF is deployed in Ganga Sagar to mitigate any eventuality during Mela.
"This year total 85 personnel of 2 BN NDRF are deployed at three different places. One team is deployed at Lot 8, one deployed at Kachuberia and one deployed at Sagar. Each team is well equipped with inflatable boats, deep diving sets , deep divers and flood rescue equipments," a release quoting battalion commandant Nishith Upadhyay said.
NDRF boats and deep divers are patrolling 24X7 at all three places inside water and keeping close eyes on pilgrims who are passing through and taking holy dip at Sagar.
It must be mentioned that the NDRF has established its control rooms at each places and maintaining close and continuous cooperation with local Mela administration there, it added.
In addition, the Coast Guard and the marine police and several security personnel have been deployed in the Sagar Island to manage the security of the several hundred thousands of pilgrims.