Covid norms thrown to the wind at Chhath Puja in Chandigarh
Around 2,000 people turned up at the lake in Sector 42 to pay obeisance to the setting sun on the third day of Chhath PujaUpdated: Nov 20, 2020, 23:17 IST
Around 2,000 people turned up at the lake in Sector 42 to pay obeisance to the setting sun on the third day of Chhath Puja in Chandigarh on Friday.
Most of them were seen without face masks and maintaining no social distance, even as the number of Covid-19 cases are on a steady rise in the city.
The authorities issued not a single challan to the violators, though announcements urging people to exercise caution were being made from loudspeakers.
According to orders issued by the UT administration under the Unlock 5 guidelines on October 1, which have been extended till November 30, religious functions and congregations can be held in open spaces with strict observance of social distancing, mandatory wearing of face masks and provisions for thermal scanning and handwash or sanitiser.
The permission for holding Chhath Puja at the lake had been granted by the administration subject to strict observance of these Covid protocols. The organisers were made responsible to ensure compliance.
“We weren’t expecting a lot of people, but at least 2,000 turned up in the evening,” admitted Arvind Singh, treasurer, Purvanchal Sabha, adding that the number was estimated on the basis of masks distributed by the organisation.
Singh said similar rush is unlikely on Saturday morning, when devotees pray to the rising sun and break their fast, as children and the elderly are not expected to come.
Detailing the arrangements made at the venue, assistant superintendent of police (ASP, south) Shruti Arora said: “Around 200 cops were deployed in and around the lake to ensure order. Roads in front of the lake had been closed to manage the crowds better. “
Also, unlike previous years, vendors were not allowed at the venue, and Covid testing booths that have been set up in the parking lot were closed on Friday.
In the afternoon, the administration had even chalked lines for devotees to maintain distance between each other, and they were allowed to enter the lake only from the front.
However, in the evening, these rules went for a toss.
“Once the crowd started swelling, we did what we could. We distributed masks and ensured compliance,” said subdivisional magistrate (SDM, south) Satish Jain, while confirming that no action was taken against violators.
The fine for not wearing a face mask in public places is ₹500 in Chandigarh.
Meanwhile, Purvanchal Sabha chairman Anil Kumar Dubey, who is also an elected councillor, said: “ We were doing our best to manage the crowds and asking people to wear masks. To discourage people from coming to the lake on Saturday morning, we will be serving only tea after the puja concludes.”