Kolkata Police to start inspection of pandals
Less than a week before the Durga Puja begins, the Kolkata Police will start inspecting the Puja pandals from Monday to check whether the curbs imposed by the Calcutta high court were being followed.
On Friday, the court banned the entry of visitors into the pandals to check the spread of Covid-19. The puja committees need to put up barricades - 10 metres from the outer end of the big and five metres from the smaller pujas – to make the pandals a no-entry zone for visitors.
A team led by a joint police commissioner will visit around 18 of the biggest puja pandals on Monday. Many of these pujas are patronised by ruling Trinamool Congress leaders and ministers.
“It would be a joint inspection by the police and other agencies such as the fire brigade and power supply corporation. On the first day, the team would visit around 18 puja pandals,” said a police officer.
While at least 36,000 community pujas are held across the state, in Kolkata alone, 2,500 are held by various clubs. These are just the clubs that are registered with the state government. This apart, there are pujas held in housing societies and residences. Around 1500 pujas are organised by women.
Durga Puja is the biggest festival in West Bengal. Even though the five-day Puja starts this year from October 11, the festivity starts much before, and it extends for more than a week every year. Mahalaya this year would be held on October 6 and the immersion process would continue till 17.
The high court, while hearing a plea seeking curbs during the festive season to prevent a surge in Covid-19 cases, said that all the restrictions that were imposed by the court in 2020 will remain this year.
“The puja committees have been asked to make their pandals as open and possible so that pandal hoppers may have a glance of the Goddess and the decorations from outside without crowding. The committees have also been asked to share their plans for crowd management during the peak hours,” said a second police officer.
Thousands of people from adjoining districts come to Kolkata during the puja days for pandal hopping.
In October 2020, just 72 hours before the Durga Puja started, the high court banned the entry of visitors inside pandals. The court also put a cap on the number of puja committee members who could enter the pandal – 45 for big pujas and 15 for smaller ones. Anjali, the offering of flowers to the Gods and Goddess and Sindur Khela, a ritual in which married women smear each other’s face with vermillion before immersion, was also banned.