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After Gangasagar, Bengal to go ahead with Kenduli Mela as COVID cases rise


Ashok Chatterjee

Kolkata (The Hawk): There has been criticism of the state government from political opponents for going ahead with the Gangasagar Mela at a time when the positive cases surge by leaps and bounds.

The Calcutta High Court allowed the fair to go ahead on Tuesday, after the state government assured the court that the visitors at the fair will be screened and all COVID protocols are being followed on the ground.

Political opponents, the Bharatiya Janata Party, CPI(M) and the Congress have all found faults with the state government for letting the matter go to court and absolve itself of all the responsibility of holding the fair. They argued that the government should have, on its own, cancelled the religious gathering due to the sudden surge in SARS CoV2 cases in West Bengal as well as in India.

Arguing their case at Calcutta High Court, the West Bengal Doctor’s Forum had argued that the annual fair in Sagar Island has the probability of turning into a super spreader if not stopped.

There is also discussion in state political circles that on one hand the State Election Commission, in accordance to the Central Election Commission notification, has banned any political gatherings and forced the parties to only canvass digitally for votes for the four municipal corporation elections on January 22, whereas the state government has allowed religious gathering of such a huge magnitude at Gangasagar.

The government has come under the hammer as the Uttarakhand government has banned devotees from taking a dip in the Ganga in Haridwar and Rishikesh on the occasion of Makar Sankranti on January 14. There will be a ban on devotees gathering at Har ki Pairi in Haridwar, Triveni ghat in Rishikesh, and other ghats for a ritual bath on Makar Sankranti for their safety in view of the recent spike in pandemic cases in the state as orders issued by Haridwar district magistrate Vinay Shankar Pandey and Dehradun district magistrate R Rajesh Kumar showed.

A large number of devotees take a holy dip in the Ganga both in Haridwar and Rishikesen s bh on the occasion of Makar Sankranti every year.

The preparations for the fair were going on but now the district administration has cancelled the festival due to the surge in Covid-19 cases and the restrictions imposed by the state government. Though the fair will not be held, devotees will be allowed to take holy dip in the Ajay river on the occasion of Makar Sankranti on January 14. According to the district administration all devotees will have to strictly follow Covid-19 norms.

After the Gangasagar mela was allowed by the high court, West Bengal minister and Bolpur Trinamool MLA Chandranath Sinha, on Tuesday, announced that this year’s Joydev Kenduli Mela, one of the traditional festivals of the state, which was earlier cancelled because of the surge in Covid-19 cases will go on as usual. The Kenduli Mela is a traditional Baul music festival held in Birbhum every year on the occasion of Makar Sankranti. 

Health experts and doctors are of the opinion that the state should take a tough stand on COVID surge and not allow the infection to spread further.  

Trinamool Congress national general secretary and MP Abhishek Banerjee last week, replying to the media, had said that all religious and political gatherings should be stopped in the state for next couple of months, adding that this was his ‘personal’ opinion.