It is safety first for Ranchi this Chhath.
Demarcated dip zones in ponds and lakes, a quick response diver squad, squeaky clean banks, bar on movement of heavy vehicles within city limits, road diversions and 200 JAP jawans on vigil ' the district administration and the civic guardians have taken criticism in their stride to make the festival of 2012 one worth compliments.
The capital has around 38 big and small water reservoirs, which roughly see over 300,000 vratis (fasting devotees) and festive visitors every year. With barely a day to go for the sanjhiya arghya ' the traditional evening offering on the third day of Chhath ' civic workers and members of local sarna samitis on Sunday spent 11 hours to ready their ghats for the ritual.
While prominent ones like Hatania Talab, Kanke Dam, Dhurwa Dam and Shalimar ' which mostly receive high-profile crowds ' have been scrubbed and washed clean, the banks of some like Bada Talab and Line Tank Talab are expected to shed filth and embrace piety by Monday morning.
"We had time constraint because Durga Puja immersions were followed by that of Kali Puja and then there was Statehood Day celebrations. Our hands were full. But now, the job is on in full swing. In fact, 90 per cent work has already been completed," a senior official of A2Z at Line Tank Talab said, adding that safe zones had been demarcated along most ghats.
Sarna samitis, on their part, are deputing divers at the reservoirs. "We will have half a dozen divers ready for emergencies," said Rajiv Singh, a member of the Chadri samiti.
SSP Saket Kumar Singh said 200 baton-wielding jawans, including 100 women, had been deployed for patrolling crowd-magnet reservoirs and their adjoining areas.
"Special traffic arrangements have also been made for the next two festive days. Heavy vehicles will not be allowed to enter or exit the city from 8am on Monday till 9pm the day after," he said.
SSP Singh added that vehicles bound for Hazaribagh from Piska More would have to take a diversion via Kathal More, Birsa Chowk, Tupudana, Namkum railway station, Tatisilwai, Dipatoli and Booty More. Similarly, vehicles going to Tatanagar from Hazaribagh will have to take a detour via Namkum station, Tatisilwai, Dipatoli and Booty More.
While the administration is busy plugging safety and security loopholes before the principal Chhath rituals, popular songs like He Chhathi Maiyya and Aaho Dinanath have put the capital on festive gear since Saturday's nahai-khai ceremony, which technically marks the beginning of the celebrations.
On Sunday, the markets were flooded with devotees doing their last-minute shopping for fruits and other puja paraphernalia. Needless to say, prices have skyrocketed too.
A soop, which came for Rs 70 last year, now costs over Rs 100. Similarly, a bunch of bananas is Rs 300 heavy on the pocket against Rs 280 last time. The ardent devotee isn't complaining. "My budget has increased by 35 per cent flat. But then, Chhath is the only time when our entire family comes together," said Amritesh Sinha, a government employee.