Parvati Kumar, 45, was visiting Ganga Sagar for the first time. ThePrint spoke with her while her mask was still on, since she was on a conference call. Before she could reach for her mask, she said that they were a group consisting of 100 people who had come from Bhopal. All of us have been double-vaccinated, and we all had our Covid test before arriving here. All protocols are being followed. Only the careless can get infected. However, those who adhere to the rules can complete the yatra safely.
Tirth Das (52), a 52-year-old man who had come from Uttar Pradesh, was very happy with the arrangements made by West Bengal and stated, "There is no Covid wherever we come from." We were tested at the railway station.
Pintu Sarkar was a civic volunteer and said that she was on duty. It starts at 6 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m. We are being housed at a local school by the state government. I've been encouraging people to wear masks through a microphone. Some people listen, others don't. There was no reason to stop the Ganga Sagar Mela."
Positivity rate at 32.13% doesn't deter Ganga Sagar Mela
The transit camp in Kolkata was heavily guarded and devotees assembled in large numbers to board a bus to travel towards Ganga Sagar. The camp had kiosks set up by the state health department, police and the Kolkata Municipal Corporation to aid pilgrims.
In the midst banners welcoming pilgrims to South 24 Parganas there were many announcements in Bengali and Hindi urging everyone to follow the Covid protocols as set out by the high court. Social distancing was not an option as pilgrims waited for the ferry to arrive. After they were packed in the vessel, the masks fell off.
The pilgrims were assisted by 10,000 police officers and 5,000 civic volunteers. However, the crowd became more dense and difficult to manage as we approached the mela grounds. A serpentine line made up of devotees was crowded behind barricades outside Kapil Muni’s ashram.
A policeman was asked where the RTPCR tests were being performed. He was helping a pilgrim who was sick at a tea stand board an ambulance. The policeman was not sure if this was a Covid case. Nine buffer zones have been set up by the state to protect pilgrims.
Devotees gathered at the mouth of the river to take a dip in the water, with masks on. Civic volunteers made constant announcements asking everyone to use masks, wash their hands, and keep social distance.
E-snan was also introduced by the administration. This is where holy water is sprinkled onto devotees using a drone. This Thursday saw 250 pilgrims opt for the e-snan, but most stayed true to their tradition of taking a dip into the Ganga.