A muted puja this year too as Calcutta high court bans entry of visitors into pandals
Visitors will not be allowed inside Durga Puja pandals in West Bengal this year as well, the Calcutta high court ordered on Friday while hearing a Public Interest Litigation seeking curbs during the festive season to prevent a surge in Covid-19 cases. The court said that all the restrictions it imposed in 2020 will remain this year.
“This means the ban on the entry of visitors inside the Durga Puja pandals remains. The court had mandated putting up barricades outside the pandals while putting a cap on the number of puja committee members who can enter a pandal,” said Sabyasachi Chatterjee, an advocate.
Durga Puja is the biggest festival in West Bengal. Even though the five-day Puja starts this year from October 11, the festival 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.
Advocate general Soumendra Nath Mookherjee said the state government has no objections if the court imposes last year’s restrictions.
Ruling Trinamool Congress leader Tapas Roy said: “Last year too, West Bengal celebrated a muted festive season. Several restrictions were imposed, and everyone abided by them. (Chief minister) Mamata Banerjee has said whatever measures were introduced last year would be enough and may be followed this year too.”
Abhijit Chowdhury, a health expert who is a part of the state’s Covid-19 advisory panel, welcomed the court order. “We are still not out of the Covid-19 situation. Any lapse could trigger another wave. The government, puja committees, and citizens should all work together and maintain the protocols to prevent any surge.”
The government on Thursday announced relaxation in the night curfew in the state between 11 pm and 5 am in view of the puja celebrations. It also said the existing restrictions in place to check the spread of Covid-19 have been extended till October 30.
The Centre has directed states to enforce adherence to Covid-related guidelines, especially during the festive season. Large scale gatherings in fairs, festivals, and religious events and functions may lead to a fresh surge in Covid-19 cases, the Union home ministry warned states in a letter on Tuesday.
Clubs registered with the state government hold at least 36,000 community pujas across the state including 2,500 in Kolkata. Pujas are also held in housing societies and at residences. Women alone organise around 1,500 pujas.
According to a study commissioned by the state government in 2018, the economic value of the creative industries that crop up around the puja is worth ₹32,377 crore.