Kolkata, Dec 27 (PTI) West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday said her government is taking necessary measures to ensure pilgrims do not face any difficulties during the upcoming Gangasagar Mela in South 24 Parganas next month.
Banerjee took stock of the preparedness for the annual fair at Sagar Island, where lakhs of Hindu pilgrims gather from across the country and outside to take a holy dip at the confluence of the Ganga and the Bay of Bengal on the occasion of 'Makar Sankranti'.
This year, the Gangasagar Mela will be held between January 8 and January 17.
"Gangasagar is the biggest fair in India. At least 40 lakh people will gather this year. All measures are being taken to ensure that pilgrims do not face any difficulties," she said after a review meeting at 'Nabanna Sabhaghar' (secretariat).
Banerjee also said no VIPs in convoys with pilot cars will be allowed to visit the mela as it might lead to problems for lakhs of pilgrims visiting the island.
"VIPs will not be allowed to enter Gangasagar Mela in convoys unless it is necessary. Such VIP movements amid the crowd cause problems. Anybody can visit but VIPs from other states should also be informed that there is no problem in going as a common man but there will be a problem if they go in convoys using pilot cars," she said.
Apart from Chief Secretary HK Dwivedi, senior officials of at least 18 different departments including 15 senior ministers and representatives from the Army and Navy, Kolkata Port Trust, and NGOs were also present.
Banerjee said there would be strict police vigilance and the administration has prepared a 200-kilometre-long barricades to control the crowd "Around 10,000 police personnel will be deployed. Traffic regulations have been planned and there will be patrolling in the waters, too. Law and order will not be compromised at any cost. Medical units would be on standby as well," the CM said.
There will be 1,150 CCTV cameras, 20 drones, 2,400 civil defence forces, and 50 fire engines, she said, adding that a total of 6,500 volunteers will also be there.
Efforts are also being made to make the annual congregation eco-friendly, she said, adding, that necessary dredging work around the Sagar Island has already been carried out.
Banerjee asked senior ministers, including Sovandeb Chattopadhyay, Firhad Hakim and Aroop Biswas to be present at crucial points to keep a close watch on the proceedings during the Gangasagar Mela.
The Bengal CM said the administration has also decided to deploy 2,250 government buses, 250 private buses and six barges for pilgrims.
Banerjee announced like previous years, accident insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh will be provided to every pilgrim and all those involved in the mela.
During the meeting, Banerjee expressed concern after being informed about over-silting in an area where a Bangladeshi ship sank in 2013.
She requested the disaster management department to look into the matter so that the ship could be removed from the waters after the Mela is over. PTI SCH MNB