Howrah, Dec 18 (PTI) The Centre has turned down the West Bengal government’s request to treat the annual Gangasagar mela, to be held next month, on a par with the Kumbh Mela, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said here Tuesday.

The plea has been made as it is the only mela where over 20 lakh pilgrims reach the venue after crossing a river, the Muriganga, and taking them there is “quite a tough job”, she said.

Gangasagar mela is an annual congregation of Hindu pilgrims at the Sagar island where they take holy dips at the confluence of the Ganga and Bay of Bengal during the Makar Sankranti.

“We had written to the central government for granting the Gangasagar mela the status of the Kumbh mela, but they rejected the proposal. It’s a very tough mela because lakhs of people have to travel across the river to reach the venue,” Banerjee told reporters at the secretariat after a meeting on organising the mela.

She said the Centre is taking a long time to build a bridge over the Muriganga, which her government has proposed and the Centre accepted.

The West Bengal government had earlier said it will share 74 per cent cost to build a new major port in Tajpur as it will build a bridge over the Muriganga river to help pilgrims visiting Sagar Island.

At the coordination committee meeting on Tuesday, the state government decided to provide a compensation of Rs 5 lakh in the event of accidental death of a pilgrim at Sagar Island between January 7 and 17.

This year Makar Sankranti date is January 14.

The triangular Island, situated around 130 km from the city, is separated from the mainland by rivers Ganga and Muriganga on two sides and faces the Bay of Bengal on the third side.

The coordination meeting also discussed the security measures to be arranged at the Gangasagar mela.

“We want a peaceful mela. Several measures have been taken to keep it peaceful. Visits of several VVIPs would be restricted to facilitate visits of the pilgrims,” the chief minister said.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.