Covid -ve reports, full vaccination must for Gangasagar Mela attendees: HC
KOLKATA: The Calcutta high court on Tuesday made negative RT-PCR test reports as well as full Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for all pilgrims attending this year’s Gangasagar Mela amid a surge in Covid-19 cases in West Bengal.
A division bench headed by Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava directed the state health secretary to ensure that only those who have received two vaccine doses are permitted to enter the Sagar Island for the mela with negative test reports. “The chief secretary of West Bengal will be personally liable to ensure the compliance of the directions,” the court said.
Around half a million people from across India are expected to arrive for the mela, which was inaugurated on Monday. Pilgrims would take the holy dip there on January 14 on the occasion of Makar Sankranti at the confluence of the Ganga and the Bay of Bengal.
On Friday, the court allowed the West Bengal government to organise the mela subject to strict safety protocols. The court formed a three member committee with a representative of the state, leader of the opposition in the assembly, and chairman of the state human rights panel to ensure the protocols were being followed.
On Monday, the government and doctors’ forums urged the court not to include a political member (the leader of the opposition) in the committee. The court on Tuesday formed a new two-member committee comprising Justice (retired) Samapti Chatterjee and member secretary of the West Bengal Legal Services Authority to ensure the protocols were being maintained.
The government on December 2 imposed restrictions to check the spread of coronavirus. It capped the number of people attending social, cultural and religious gatherings to 50.
“Gangasagar Mela is also in the nature of social, religious and cultural gathering. Therefore, this order clearly applies and it is required to be implemented by the state authorities with full force,” the court said earlier.
The mela is the second largest congregation of pilgrims in India after the Kumbh in Prayag. In 2020, around five million pilgrims from across India attended it.