The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday advised the worshippers visiting to participate in the Ganga Sagar Mela 2021, to opt for 'E-snan', instead of bathing in the river, amid the ongoing pandemic.
"The State Administration shall continue to make all endeavours to dissuade the pilgrims for going for a holy dip and opt for E-snan," ordered a Bench of Chief Justice Thottathil B. Radhakrishnan and Justice Arijit Banerjee, concerned by the risk of spread of Covid-19 infection.
The Bench was presiding over a PIL filed by one Ajay Kumar De, underscoring the issues affecting health, safety and welfare matters in relation to Ganga Sagar Mela 2021 to be held soon.
[NOTE: Every year on Makar Sankranti, lakhs of Hindus flock the Sagar Island in West Bengal's South 24 Parganas district to take the holy dip and offer prayers at the Kapil Muni temple.]
In its order dated January 7, the Bench had expressed apprehension that when congregations take dips in flowing water or stagnant water, in the form of ponds, rivers or other water bodies, oral droplets and nasal droplets of any person who is carrying the infection in this pandemic period, can easily percolate into that water body and thereby create chances of infection through those droplets transmitted virus.
The Court also noted that 'social distancing' would remain "a mirage" when such congregations happen.
On January 8, the Bench though allowed performing of rituals, it directed the administration to ensure that there is wide spread publicity over microphone and otherwise, informing the pilgrims that it is for their own good that they should stay away from the Ganges water.
Today, the Bench was informed that the risk of Covid-19 transmission through bathing in flowing water like a river or saline water in a sea is extremely low.
The Director of Health Services, Health and Family Welfare Department, Government of West Bengal further informed the Court that as a measure of abundant precaution, pilgrims shall be allowed to go for a dip in a staggered manner maintaining safe distance between one another.
It is at this juncture that the Bench said,
"in view of the report of the DHS filed today, our apprehension stands mitigated to a large extent. However, needless to say that the State Administration shall continue to make all endeavours to dissuade the pilgrims for going for a holy dip and opt for E-snan."
To a query from the Bench, the Advocate General submitted that the packaged holy water that is distributed at the venue of the Gangasagar Mela for E-snan is free of cost. However, a small charge is levied for delivery of such packaged holy water at doorsteps of people who want it at their homes.
"We hope and except that the parties will be able to apprise us that the Gangasagar Mela is progressing under controlled conditions," the Bench said while fixing the matter for hearing on January 18.
Case Title: Ajay Kumar De v. State of West Bengal & Ors.