Covid-19 curbs take a back seat on Dusshera in West Bengal’s Kharagpur
Thousands of people gathered in a field on Dusshera to witness the burning of Ravan’s effigy violating Covid-19 restrictions at Kharagpur in West Midnapore district in West Bengal.
The incident has shocked public health experts who criticized the local administration for allowing such a gathering at a time when the state is witnessing a sharp spike in Covid-19 cases.
West Bengal added 4,121 new Covid-19 cases on Monday, which was the second highest number of cases in India after Kerala. While Kerala with 4,287 cases topped the list, Maharashtra with 3,645 cases ranked third.
The top brass of the local administration including the district magistrate and senior Trinamool Congress leaders such as the local MLA attended the ritual organised around 140 km west of Kolkata.
“As the event involves the sentiment of the people and is being organized for many years, we had made preparations so that it could be live streamed through a local cable television channel and on a video sharing platform. But people refused to stay at home and came out in large numbers. Nobody was prepared for this,” said Rashmi Kamal, district magistrate of West Midnapore,
Thousands of people from Kharagpur and nearby villages gathered at the spot on Monday, to see the burning of the 54-feet effigy. While physical distancing between people took a back-seat many were not even wearing face masks raising the risk of transmission. The district administration, however, said that masks and sanitizers were distributed.
“This involves people’s sentiment and the Ravan Dahan at Kharagpur has been going on for several years. It was once the biggest Ravan Dahan in the country. So it was not possible to stop the festival overnight,” said Ajit Maity, district president of the ruling TMC.
“This was done keeping in mind the people’s sentiment. People also need to be aware and understand that Covid-19 restrictions need to be followed. The violations have come to our notice. The next time we organise any such gathering we will be better prepared,” said Pradip Sarkar, TMC MLA.
The Durga Puja has been muted this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions imposed by the Calcutta High Court. The court had banned the entry of visitors inside puja pandals this time.
“The way people had gathered at the spot was shocking. Even if there was one Covid-19 patient the disease will spread to many people. The administration should have been more careful” said Kajalkrishna Banik, public health expert.