Hundreds of people took to the streets and blocked roads in Patna on Wednesday to protest against the pathetic condition of the 'ghats' (banks) along river Ganges ahead of Chhath - the most popular Hindu festival in the state, police said.
With less than a week to go for the four-day Chhath festival and no effort by the district administration to clean the filth and garbage collected at the ghats, people gathered on roads at Kurji, Digha and Durja (near the historic 'Gol Ghar' in central Patna) and raised anti-government slogans.
The Chhath Puja is performed in order to thank the Sun god for sustaining life on earth and to request the granting of certain wishes. The rituals include bathing at the river ghats and standing waist-deep in water for long periods of time.
"It is shocking that the ghats are still dirty and yet to be cleaned. Their condition is pathetic," Sunil Kumar Singh, a resident of Digha said.
Sunil said the ghats are littered with garbage and filth. Some ghats also face the problem of overflowing dirty drains.
Mukesh Yadav, another protester, said the condition of the ghats was bad due to accumulation of garbage and the failure of the administration to clean them.
"It is difficult to stand near the ghats due to the bad smell and dirty water and garbage littered all over," Yadav said.
Guddu Baba, who leads a movement to clean the river, said the district administration has utterly failed to clean the ghats.
"It should be a matter of concern for the state government's good governance claim that ghats are left at God's mercy," Baba said. "Administration has no time for cleaning of ghats," he alleged.
The poor condition of the banks of the Ganges and its altered course that has taken the river kilometres away from the city has forced people to celebrate Chhath at small ponds and other make-shift arrangements.
Until a decade ago, Chhath was traditionally celebrated only at river banks. This exclusivity was affected when people began to move away from river banks due to pollution.
During the four-day festival that will begin later this week a large number of people - mostly married women - will throng the banks of rivers Ganga, Punpun, Gandak and Kosi as well as big and small water bodies to have a ritual bath before preparing vegetarian food at home.