West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday demanded that the Centre declare Gangasagar Mela a national fair and said she had written several letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in this connection in the past but did not get reply to any of them.
"If Kumbh Mela is the number one 1 fair in the country, then Gangasagar Mela must be the number two. In fact, I believe this is an unique Mela because you have to cross the Muriganga river to reach it," Banerjee told reporters after offering puja at the Kapil Muni Ashram here.
The Kapil Muni Ashram located in Gangasagar is a temple devoted to Lord Vishnu. Iterating that none of her letters written to the PM was replied to, she said "I will wait for it". Banerjee described the Gangasagar Mela as one of the biggest festivals of the Hindus and there is no assistance for it from the Centre, unlike in the case of Kumbh Melas.
"The central government provides full financial support for Kumbh Mela but not a single penny to Gangasagar Mela. Every year at least 20 lakh pilgrims come to Gangasagar Mela," she said. She asked those visiting the Mela to wear masks and follow COVID-19 protocol.
"I pray for your well being. The district administration has taken all measures for this Mela," Banerjee said. The chief minister said the government will try to build the proposed road-cum-rail bridge across Muriganga River between Kakdwip in South 24 Parganas district and Kochuberia on Sagar Island when it has the fund for it.
"I want to build a bridge from Hardwood point in Kakdwip area to Kochuberia. This time too I had a discussion with the prime minister. When we have the fund we will give it a try. It requires several thousand crores of rupees," Banerjee, who is on a two-day tour to the Sagar Islands, said.
Asked for her comment on her proposal to the Centre offering 74 per cent stake of the proposed Tajpur port in 2017 and the building of a 3.5 km-long steel bridge across the Muriganga river in return, she said, "Neither they built the Tajpur Port nor the bridge. It may take some time but we will do our work," she said.
Besides scrutinising the preparedness of the annual religious congregation here, she is scheduled to hold an administrative review meeting on Wednesday.
Senior priest of Kapil Muni Ashram in Gangasagar Mahant Gyandas showered praise on Banerjee and echoed her demand that the Mela be declared a national fair. "She has worked for the welfare of Bengal and now the country requires similar welfare activities. Our prayer is to take Didi further as she is a national leader."
"We had requested Didi to build a temple in Gangasagar and she did it. We had also been demanding to make this Mela a national one, but unless she is in the Centre it will not happen," he added.
With inputs from PTI.