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Don’t Let Gangasagar Fair Be Super Spreader, Lawyers Tell Court

Gangasagar Fair

Ashok Chatterjee

Kolkata (The Hawk): The Calcutta High Court listened to arguments of lawyers of public interest litigants on Monday against holding the Gagasagar Mela as five PILS were filed at the Calcutta High Court after its Friday ruling on the issue.
The Calcutta High Court on Friday had ruled that the Gangasagar Mela could be held but in a restricted way. The court had laid down a few riders for holding the fair this year. It had also formed a three-member committee with the powers to stall the fair at any time, if they felt so. Or it has the choice of continuing with the fair by regulating the crowd.
After the HC verdict, the court saw five more public interest litigations (PIL) being filed with it on the subject. The basic demands of the cases were: The fair should be closed immediately and why no doctor or public health specialist was included in the monitoring committee. It is not possible for those in the committee to judge the current COVID situation in the state.
The complainants’ lawyers told the court on Monday that it was better not to take such a risk looking at the current surge in COVID positive cases in the state. Lawyers Sreejib Chakraborty and Suryanil Das, defending the PILs, questioned the logic behind holding the fair this year. Present were lawyers Jhaju Ghoshal, CPM MP and lawyer Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, lawyer Anindya Kumar Mitra and West Bengal Doctors’ Forum lawyer Aniruddha Chatterjee. Aniruddha told the court that Diamond Harbor is one of the busiest roads connecting to Kolkata. If the fair is not stopped now, looking at the current high number of cases, it could turn into a super spreader.
Sources said that the lawyers cited Kumbh Mela in Uttar Pradesh during the second wave of SARS CoV2, which turned into a super spreader. The Yogi Adityanath government had to face severe criticism for that. Other lawyers, including Aniruddha, told the court on Monday that it would take several days to get the report of the committee, formed by the court to monitor the Ganga-sagar fair. Until then, the damage to the state will increase manifold.
The lawyers also questioned the absence of any health expert in the three-member committee. Bikash Ranjan highlighted that the committee included a political figure, a judge and a bureaucrat. It is not possible for them to judge the COVID situation.
Talking to The Hawk, Bikash Ranjan said, “It should have been an administrative decision. It is unfortunate it has gone to court. We have asked the court to stop the fair and if that is not possible then the committee should have a public health expert, who can better guide how the spread of the virus can be least avoided. This is madness by the government, which is influenced by religious sentiments.”       
The West Bengal health bulletin on Sunday showed 24, 287 new cases were reported in the last 24 hours. In this situation, it is imperative to have public health experts in the committee to decide on the fate of the fair.
Hearing the court proceedings on Monday, Dr Hiralal Konar of Joint Forum of Doctors, which had been also advocating stopping the fair said, the fair monitoring committee should included a microbiologist (medical or non-medical) or a public health expert, who will have a better idea of the ground situation.