Guwahati: Contradicting to the state government claim of taking adequate measures for the success of the much-awaited Ambubachi Mela starting from Saturday, pilgrims traveling in trains had to experience some terrible moments due to non-availability of special trains for this mega festival of the country.
This is not alone. Pilgrims, taking shelter in Pandunath Temple in Guwahati for the festival, are taking bath in the mighty Brahmaputra river by risking their lives in absence of teams from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) or State Disaster Response Force (SDRF).
Even though the organising committee of Ambubachi Mela 2019 is expecting over 25 lakh pilgrims this time, majority of them are likely to reach the venue via different trains from various places of the country, including those from West Bengal.
When an EastMojo team reached Kamakhya railway station in the wee hours of Friday, pilgrims shared their inhuman train travel experiences.
Pandove Das, a devotee who had reached Kamakhya railway station along with his wife, children and others from Farakka, West Bengal, elaborated their unexpected train journey to EastMojo and said that they won’t come here again during this time of the year.
“You can’t imagine what we went through during our journey to reach Guwahati for this festival. We started from Farakka at around 12 noon yesterday and there was no space in the train at all. In the entire journey, we couldn’t even get a space to sit, forget about the sleep. In such hot and humid condition, it was a nightmare for all of us. Some even fainted inside the train. There was no facility for food,” Das said.
His relative, Mousumi Mandal, also had the same story to share. “We have come here with our children. There was so rush in the train that sometimes it felt that we will be thrown out of the train. Just realise what would have been the condition of the children passengers traveling in such inhuman condition. Animals won’t even been transported like this way.”
Gokul Biswas from Nadia, West Bengal has appealed to the authorities in the Railway to take care the interest of the pilgrims visiting Kamakhya Temple for Ambubachi Mela. “The condition inside the train was such that in one reservation seat, more than 10 people were occupying it. Additional coaches in trains during this time of the year are a must,” Surajeet Majhi from Hoogly told the EastMojo.
Tapan Paul from Hoogly added: If someone feels to go to toilets in the morning, he or she can do the same in the evening only. This was the condition inside the trains.
Amar Nath and Ramesh Maharaj have come from Kachi for the festival. Expressing serious concerns over the train facilities, they have urged the government that special initiatives like special trains, etc, should be provided to the pilgrims. “This is one of the biggest festivals for all of us. Due to the heavy rush, conditions inside the trains are just beyond imagination. Government should look into it,” they added.
Despite the state government claiming that more than 100 state government buses have been put into service for the benefit of the pilgrims, devotees reaching the Kamakhya railway station had to arrange their transportation facilities to the temple of their own.
“We have reached here from Jalpaiguri by sitting on the floor of the train despite having reservation tickets. Now, we are exhausted, there is no government facility like free transportation as well here. It seems that the state government doesn’t have any planning for the festival,” Tulu Raha and Basana Biswas regretted.
Meanwhile, confirming that there were no special trains this time, Northeast Frontier (NF) Railway public relations officer Nripendra Bhatacharyya said that extra coaches to eight long-distance and passenger trains have been added for the festival.
“It’s true that NF Railway has not introduced any special train for the festival. However, extra coaches to eight long-distance and passenger trains have been added for the festival. Ambubachi Mela is a big event in Assam and all the trains are running with full passengers. Apart from this, security and cleanliness aspects have also been taken care by the NFR in the stations,” he added.
Severely criticising the organisers of Ambubachi Mela 2019 for not taking any initiative for the pilgrims gathered at Pandunath Devalaya at Pandu, general secretary of the temple, Nimai Chandra Das, alleged that despite having its historical and mythological importance and association with Kamakhya dham, the organisers have not given any attention to the pilgrims staying here in this temple.
“A large number of pilgrims for the festival are taking shelter here in the temple. We are organising everything of our own. For some unknown reasons, the organising committee of the festival is not helping us in hosting the pilgrims. Not even a single packet of bleaching power has been supplied to us. Pilgrims are taking bath here in the mighty Brahmaputra. Have you seen a single team of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) or State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) here? What are the precautionary measures the authorities concerned have taken for the protection of the pilgrims taking holy bath in Brahmaputra before leaving for Kamakhya Temple?” Das questioned.