Besides providing basic amenities at ‘Gangasagar Mela’ in West Bengal, the South 24 Parganas district administration is also using QR code wrist bands, mobile apps and a software for crowd monitoring system to help the pilgrims, an official said on Tuesday.
Every year on Makar Sankranti day lakhs of pilgrims gather at Sagar island in West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas district from across the country to take a dip at the confluence of the Hoogly river and Bay of Bengal and offer prayers at the Kapil Muni Ashram.
South 24 Parganas District Magistrate P Ulaganathan said the district administration is using the QR code-based wrist bands to address the problem of missing persons and a real-time crowd monitoring system through the application of information technology for the convenience of pilgrims.
More than 30 lakh pilgrims from across the country gather here for the annual event and the challenge for the district administration is to manage the pilgrims while crossing the Muriganga river to reach Sagar Island safely and vice versa, the official said.
“This year we are expecting that more than 30 lakh pilgrims will visit Gangasagar Mela as there is no Kumb Mela this year,” he said.
To reunite missing pilgrims with their kin is also a hurdle for the administration as many elderly persons or children who get separated from their families often fail to provide their addresses, the DM said.
“Usually, 5-6 lakh senior citizens and children come each year. About 10,000 missing cases are registered every year and of them, 2,000 are critical,” he said.
For these cases, the police and district administration find it difficult to locate their families as they cannot even tell the states they have come from, he said, adding, they are provided shelters and efforts are made to send them back.
“About two lakh wrist bands with a QR code, named ‘Parichay’ have been distributed among elderly pilgrims and children visiting the mela free of cost to help them find their families in case they get lost in the crowd,” Ulganathan said.
Names, addresses and mobile numbers of family members of senior citizens and children are stored in the bar-coded waterproof bands and volunteer can easily fetch information about those who are lost and it will make easier to unite them with their kin, he added.
The administration has also introduced a real-time crowd monitoring software system known as ‘Sagar Suraksha’ for the convenience of pilgrims.
“This will help us to count the number of pilgrims in a marked area through the analysis of feed of high-resolution cameras. The software which not only gives over-crowd and trespassing alerts, but also provides forthcoming crowd gathering alert,” the DM said.
High-resolution cameras have been installed in different points like Lot no 8, Kachuberia, Namkhana and the ‘Gangasagar mela’ ground, he said.
In the year 2017 five Gangasagar pilgrims, including a woman had died in a stampede at a jetty at Kochuberia. The stampede occurred when there was a huge rush of pilgrims to board vessels to reach the mainland.
In addition to the Gangasagar mobile app, coined as ‘Atithi Path’, providing information about the fare, route chart, timings of tide, vessel and puja, the administration has introduced a vehicle tracking and management system for timely movement through the use of GPS technology named ‘Vahan Darshan’.
“Due to the lack of physical monitoring, buses and launches sometimes become off route in intermediate lanes during their duty, so a GPS device installed in all vehicles will enable us to track their movement,” another official said.
“We have taken an initiative for those who are not able to make it to Gangasagar this time can take a holy dip, right at home. They can place an order for Ganga water at our website and the water will be couriered to them along with prasad and holy tika. We have received more than 1,000 such orders, which is encouraging,” Ulganathan said.
‘e-Snan’, the first-of-its-kind-initiative by the administration, allow people can take a bath with the ‘Ganga Jal’ at their convenience while watching ‘LIVE Gangasagar’ via Gangasagar website and take the feel of SahiSnan, he added.
Source: Times of India