Covid effect: DDMA prohibits Ganesh Chaturthi pandals, Moharram procession; calls for strict vigil
The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) has prohibited processions, large idols in pandals, public gatherings and community celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi and Moharram in any public place in adherence to restrictions concerning the ongoing lockdown imposed to arrest the spread of the coronavirus disease (covid-19).
While the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations are scheduled to start on August 22, Moharram will be observed on August 29.
On Friday, the DDMA issued an order that said: “During Ganesh Chaturthi festival, no idol of lord Ganesh shall be set up in a tent, pandal or public place, nor any kind of permission shall be granted for procession. People shall be encouraged and advised to celebrate the festival at their homes.”
The order, which was signed by Delhi chief secretary Vijay Dev, further said: “Similarly, no permission will be granted for procession(s) during Moharram and the public shall be advised to celebrate the same at their homes and not in public places.” HT has seen the order.
Dev, in the order, said all DMs and district commissioners of police will hold meetings with religious leaders before any festival that has the possibility of a large gathering to get their cooperation to maintain law and order, harmony and also to sensitise people to comply with guidelines.
Dev, who is also the chairman of DDMA’s state executive committee, said it should be ensured that the crowd does not gather at any religious or public place.
All empowered authorities may resort to imposing fines for violating the directives, he said, adding that all enforcement authorities should be properly briefed about the strict implementation of the instructions a day before every festival, Dev said in the order.
“The prohibition on celebrations is not surprising in the light of social distancing norms and the current covid situation. This year, the government and the police also did not issue no-objection certificates (NOC), citing lockdown-related orders. It is understandable. People will have to limit the scale of celebrations in the light of the pandemic,” said Ashok Bansal, general secretary of Ganesh Mahotsav Samitee in south Delhi’s Mehrauli.
Bahadur Abbas, secretary of Anjuman-e-Haideri, the management committee of the Jor Bagh Karbala, said: “The government order imposes certain restrictions but does not impose a blanket ban on Moharram programmes. If social distance of not less than 2 metres between individuals is adhered to, it technically does not amount to public gathering. People should wear masks and there will be no crowded procession that violates covid guidelines. We are committed to the government’s Covid-19 guidelines.”
Another order issued by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) on Thursday – seen by HT – said that idol immersion shall not be allowed at any of the Yamuna ghats, lakes, ponds or other water bodies. It also advised the ritual to be performed within residential premises. The Ganesh festival ends with a ritual of immersion of the idol in a water body – it is scheduled on September 1.
The Delhi government has initiated the process of hiring contractors to create at least 15 artificial ponds in the city for idol immersion but public gatherings at the immersion locations are prohibited, senior officials said on Sunday.
“Not everybody has adequate space for immersion or disposal of the idol at home or in their localities. Hence, it is important to have an emergency plan ready and adhere to the suggestion of artificial ponds which was made in January 2019 by a committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal to curb pollution in Yamuna. However, no processions will be allowed, social distancing have to be followed and there can be no public gathering during the immersion as per government orders,” said a government official who did not wish to be identified.
Between August 1 and Friday, the Delhi government floated at least 15 tenders for artificial water bodies to be dug for Ganesh idol immersion in localities that include Kishangarh, Netaji Place, Delhi Cantonment, Inderpuri, Janakpuri, Mayur Vihar, Haiderpur and Moti Nagar. HT has seen the tender documents.
Work contracts on these tenders are yet to be issued.
More than 100 committees seek permission for community celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi in Delhi every year but thousands of people celebrate in their residences and they follow the idol immersion ritual too, often in smaller gatherings, said a government official.
Idol immersion is a ritual associated with the Durga Puja too. The festival this year is scheduled to culminate with the idol immersion ritual on October 22. However, clouds of uncertainty loom large over the possibility of community celebrations and public gatherings – marked by decorated pandals, temporary food courts, cultural programmes, etc.
The government is yet to take a call on Durga Puja celebrations which – if allowed, depending on the covid-19 situation in the city after a month – would require re-use of the artificial ponds and digging several more, the officials said.
“Whether Durga Puja is allowed this year, will depend on the assessment of the covid-19 situation till mid-September. Even if pandals are allowed, there will definitely be restrictions on organising processions for immersion and size of gatherings in the pandals. However, in case Durga Puja is allowed, more artificial ponds will be needed for idol immersions,” said another senior government official who did not wish to be identified.
More than 500 committees seek permission for community celebration of Durga Puja in Delhi every year.
Robin Bose, general secretary of the Kashmere Gate Durga Puja Sammittee – which also happens to be Capital’s oldest one and celebrated its 110th anniversary last year – said: “Usually, forms for availing NOCs are available in police stations two months before the festival. This year, the forms are yet not available. Even if allowed, the celebration will be much smaller in scale in every aspect – idol and pandal to size of crowd. There will be no processions and social distancing have to be adhered to.”
In 2019, the Delhi government had created around 30 artificial ponds for Ganesh idol immersion. All these were re-used – and around 85 more were created – for idol immersion after the Durga Puja festival. It was the first time Delhi had witnessed all idol immersions in artificial ponds.
According to a report of the DPCC released in October last year, the water quality of Yamuna was found to be better compared to the period after idol immersion in 2018, in parameters that include total suspended solids (TSS), bio-chemical oxygen demand (BOD) and chemical oxygen demand (COD).