Kolkata’s ‘Burj Khalifa’ pandal sealed, trains cancelled to control crowd
Kolkata Police on Thursday stopped the entry of visitors to the ‘Burj Khalifa’ pandal in Salt Lake, which was drawing thousands of visitors every day, even as the Eastern Railway had to cancel a few trains to prevent pandal hoppers from arriving in the city from adjoining areas.
“As the crowd was swelling every day, a decision was jointly taken by the police and the puja committee to stop pandal hoppers from visiting the pandal to avoid any kind of accidents. We have facilities to showcase it virtually. That would continue,” said Sujit Bose, state fire minister.
Patronised by Bose, the Sreebhumi Sporting Club puja pandal was built resembling the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai and had become a major crowd puller this year.
Earlier on Monday, the laser show of the pandal had to be called off after at least three pilots complained to the air traffic control (ATC) tower at the NSCBI airport that they were having difficulties while landing. The airport is located close to the venue of the popular puja.
“Nothing is more important than human lives. A joint decision was taken with the puja committee to ban visitors from going near the pandal. This will continue for the next few days. Only local residents will be allowed,” said a senior officer of Bidhannagar Police.
Even though the Calcutta high court had banned the entry of visitors inside pandals and had ordered organisers to put up barricades, thousands of people were gathering outside the barricades of the ‘Burj Khalifa’ pandal and other pandals in the city to have a glimpse of the idols and decorations.
The Eastern Railway had to cancel some special trains to stop people from the districts arriving in Kolkata and Salt Lake. The weeklong-Durga Puja is the biggest festival in West Bengal.
“Though local trains are not running yet, some special trains were running for railway employees and health workers. But people, mostly pandal hoppers, were boarding them to come to Kolkata. Around 13 pairs of such trains in Sealdah and Howrah division had to be cancelled to check the flow of people. Health experts have warned that a third wave of Covid-19 may hit,” said a senior railway official.
In 2020, there was a major spike in the daily count of Covid-19 cases after the festive season. Health experts had blamed it on the movement of people without adhering to safety norms like wearing masks.
On Wednesday, the daily count of Covid-19 cases in Kolkata had shot up to more than 200 after a gap of almost four months.