Kolkata: Blind faith of the thousands of pilgrims thronging the city’s Babu-Ghat (steps leading to the river Ganges named after its builder Baboo Raj Chandra ) en-route to Sagar Island for the Gangasagar Mela saw many of them discarding Covid safety protocol, turning virus containment a tough proposition for the state administration.
Many pilgrims said that taking a dip in the Hooghly river here in the shadow of the Babu-Ghat’s Doric-Greek pavilion with massive Corinthian pillars, would kill the coronavirus while several others blindly claimed that no virus would be able to touch them because they are on a holy pilgrimage.
A sadhu, Sanyasi Sukanta Giri from Haridwar’s Shambhu Panchayati Atal Akhara, who was seen without a mask said that though he has got both the vaccine shots (a must-to be allowed to proceed to Gangasagar) “chanting the ‘Gangasnan’ (Ganges bathing) and ‘Mahamrtyunjaya’ (conquest over death) mantras” would help keep him safe from the pandemic.
Rajendra Pal of Rajasthan’s Ajmer added that he firmly believed taking a dip in seawater at Sagar will “kill any form of bacteria or virus and ward off sins”.
Many of sadhus and the pilgrims were also reluctant to take the RT-PCR tests which have been made mandatory by the Calcutta High Court to go to the Sagar Island for the annual congregation, a senior official of the health department said.
“It’s like a test of our patience. They are reluctant and giving us funny excuses not to undertake the RT-PCR tests or vaccines. We have to literally fight with them to collect the swabs. At times we are taking help from policemen to explain that unless they are tested, they will not be able to proceed from this point (Babughat),” the doctor said.
Senior police officers of Kolkata Police also echoed similar difficulties while managing the pilgrims at Babughat where several tens of thousands of pilgrims are passing through.
“We are only allowing those who test negative in the RT-PCR and have double vaccination certificates . And we are administering the second dose to all those who do not have got it,” another doctor said.
However, the queue outside such RT-PCR and vaccine camps became yet another example of violation of the Covid-19 protocol where the physical distancing has gone for a toss.
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