Davidson is on fire with 12 consecutive wins, three of them in Atlantic 10 play. Outside shooting has been the Wildcats' strength during this win streak.

Lakhs of pilgrims took dips at Ganga during India’s second-largest Pilgrimage. Officials from West Bengal claimed that all Covid protocols were being observed amid an increase in cases.

Davidson is on fire with 12 consecutive wins, three of them in Atlantic 10 play. Outside shooting has been the Wildcats' strength during this win streak.

Lakhs of pilgrims took dips at Ganga during India’s second-largest Pilgrimage. Officials from West Bengal claimed that all Covid protocols were being observed amid an increase in cases.

Emre Öğüt
Emre Öğüt
14 January 2022 Friday 13:44
343 Reads
Davidson is on fire with 12 consecutive wins, three of them in Atlantic 10 play. Outside shooting has been the Wildcats' strength during this win streak.

Kolkata: Friday dawn brought Ganga Sagar beach a throng of pilgrims without masks, taking a dip into the Ganga to celebrate Makar Sankranti. The annual pilgrimage to the Ganga Sagar beach in West Bengal's South 24 Parganas district was attended by more than 3.2 million people. This is despite a rise in Covid cases.

P. Ulaganathan (district magistrate South 24 Parganas) told ThePrint that "We have performed 30,000-40,000 random Covid testing, and so far there is only one positive patient at Sagar Island under isolation."

"It's been a challenge because the area isn’t very large. Ulaganathan said that extra barricades were added to control the crowd and keep it moving. He has personally been monitoring the pilgrimage and preparations on the ground for the past month.

The Calcutta High Court amended its previous order, which had given green light to the Ganga Sagar Mela. It added that only two-vaccinated pilgrims would be permitted to visit Sagar Island with a negative RTPCR report of less than 72 hours.

The two-member judicial panel was also established to monitor pilgrimage and have the power to recommend the cancellation of pilgrimage if Covid protocol are violated.

When asked by the magistrate if there had been any concerns, he replied that the high court-appointed panel was on the ground with him. They are very happy with the arrangement and the way the mela is being carried out.

After Kumbh, the Ganga Sagar Mela has the second largest Indian religious congregation. Every year, pilgrims travel from all over the country to Sagar Island where the Ganga flows into the Bay of Bengal. Makar Sankranti is a celebration where the Sun enters a new phase. To mark this occasion, devotees take a plunge where the river flows into a sea and then proceed to pray at Kapil Muni’s ashram along the coast. Sunday will be the last day of this year's pilgrimage.

Last year, the mela attracted 30 lakh pilgrims amid the pandemic. To ensure that only people with negative Rapid Antigen Test reports were permitted to attend the festival, the state installed screening camps and Covid testing facilities.

"There is no Covid," "Some listen, and some don't."

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 this 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 for their journey towards Ganga Sagar. The camp had kiosks set up by the state health department, police and the Kolkata Municipal Corporation to aid pilgrims.

The crowd was packed, with many sadhus wearing no masks. The administration in West Bengal had a Covid positivity of 32.13 percent, and was pleading for pilgrims to have their RTPCR tests performed before they boarded the buses.

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 gathered outside Kapil Muni’s ashram was encircled behind barricades.

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 river's mouth in groups to take a plunge, with their 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 this, while most others chose to take a dip in Ganga.

Updated: 14.01.2022 13:51
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