Allow Chhath Puja festivities in Delhi, CM Arvind Kejriwal urges LG Anil Baijal
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday wrote to lieutenant governor Anil Baijal and urged him to allow Chhath Puja celebrations in Delhi with adherence to Covid-19 protocols.
“People of Delhi celebrate Chhath Puja every year with a lot of devotion and with a strong belief that it would bring good health and prosperity. In Delhi, the Covid-19 situation has been under control for the past few months. In my opinion, people should be allowed to celebrate Chhath Puja with the necessary regulations. Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, and other neighbouring states have allowed it with necessary protocols. I request you convene a meeting of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) and consider allowing Chhath Puja in Delhi too,” said Kejriwal in his letter to Baijal.
Baijal is the DDMA chairperson and Kejriwal is vice-chairperson.
The chief minister shared a copy of the letter on Twitter.
In a statement issued later in the day, the chief minister’s office highlighted how the city used to have 72 spots for celebrations of Chhath Puja five years ago, and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government increased that to 1,200-odd locations, with facilities such as drinking water, toilets, changing rooms, power connections, shower areas, proper drainage, medical camps, adequate lights, concrete pathways, etc.
A senior official in the lieutenant governor’s office said, “The chief secretary has been asked to convene a meeting of DDMA for consideration and decision on the issue.”
On October 12, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia wrote to Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya, urging the Centre to draft protocols and issue necessary orders with regard to the festival, essentially asking for broad guidelines for Delhi to draft its own regulations regarding Chhath Puja.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has been protesting over the prohibition of Chhath festivities, and asked the Delhi government to urge the DDMA to allow the celebrations just as Durga Puja and Ramlila were allowed with adherence to Covid protocols.
The festival celebrated with fervour involves taking a dip in the water bodies and worshipping the Sun. It is a major festival for people from Bihar, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh, who have a sizeable presence in Delhi.
On September 30, the DDMA issued an order prohibiting the celebration of Chhath Puja at riverbanks, near water bodies, open grounds, in temples, and other public spaces. Chhath Puja in public spaces was prohibited last year too because of the pandemic. This year, it will be celebrated on November 10 -- which is six days after Diwali.
Between last year’s festive season and this year’s, Delhi witnessed two distinct waves of Covid-19. At its worst, the capital city recorded a seven-day average of 25,000 new cases per recorded per day and a test positivity rate exceeding 30% in the last week of April this year, which left the city’s health care infrastructure overwhelmed and a severe crisis of medical oxygen further contributed to high number of deaths.
This year, however, the DDMA left room open for celebration of other festivals such as the ongoing Ramlila, Durga Puja, and Dussehra, with limited restrictions such as no rallies, professions, fairs, carnivals and shops inside and outside the venues, restricitng maximum crowd size in proportion with the setting capacity, and complete ban on firecrackers.
On October 9, Kejriwal said the DDMA prohibited the celebrations because of the inherent risk of transmission in the rituals which involve gathering in large numbers.
On October 12, BJP member of Parliament from Northeast Delhi Manoj Tiwari was injured while protesting near Kejriwal’s residence in Civil Lines against a ban on the celebration of Chhath Puja.
Delhi BJP president Adesh Gupta said on Thursday: “It is because of the pressure created by the BJP that chief minister Arvind Kejriwal -- whose government was against Chhath celebrations -- has today written to the lieutenant governor to allow Chhath celebrations to take place. I congratulate all devotees from Poorvanchal (region) who live in Delhi and celebrate the festival.”