Calcutta high court: No pandal-hopper to be allowed inside pandals
The court’s direction came amid warnings by doctors that Covid-19 cases could increase up to four-fold after the festive season, if restrictions are relaxed by the state authoritiesUpdated: Oct 19, 2020, 16:43 IST
The Calcutta high court (HC) on Monday directed that no revellers would be allowed inside Durga Puja pandals in West Bengal because of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak in the state.
The court has ordered that pandals would be treated as “no entry zones”, as Bengal gears to celebrate Durga Puja that starts from Thursday (October 22).
The court’s direction came amid warnings by doctors that Covid-19 cases could increase up to four-fold after the festive season, if restrictions are relaxed by the state authorities.
“A division bench of the Calcutta HC while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) has directed that barricades need to be put up outside puja pandals. In big pandals, the barricade will be installed at least at a distance of 10 metres (m). While for smaller pandals, the barricades will be put up at a distance of five metres. No visitors will be allowed inside the no-entry zone, except for club members,” said Sabyasachi Chatterjee, the petitioner’s lawyer.
Club members, who are organising a puja, are only allowed to enter a pandal.
The HC has also imposed restrictions on the number of puja committee members, who can be allowed to enter a pandal.
“In smaller pandals, 15 members will be allowed. While in the case of bigger pandals, a maximum of 25 members will be allowed. The names of the entrants will have to be decided in advance and cannot be changed daily. The puja organisers have been directed to display the list of entrants,” Chatterjee said.
The HC’s direction comes on a day, when overnight pandal hopping was slated to start.
Though the annual Durga puja starts on Maha Sasthi on Thursday, pandal hopping started since Sunday.
“We have not seen the order yet. We will implement the order, as it has been issued by the HC. However, the order has come as a big shock for us. Many organisers have done elaborate decorations of pandals for revellers. Their efforts will go in vain. We had made arrangements for masks and hand sanitisers for visitors,” said a member of the Forum for Durgotsab, an umbrella organisation of over 350 prominent puja committees in Kolkata.
Bengal is organising over 37,000 community pujas, including more than 2500 in and around Kolkata , this year. Around 1,700 pujas are being organised by women in the state.
However, the list doesn’t include pujas, which are being held in housing societies and individual households.
The HC also observed that reports published in the media about growing Covid-19 cases are scary and questioned how only 30,000-odd police personnel could tackle up to four lakh pandal hoppers. However, the state government assured that it would increase the deployment of police personnel.
Bengal has reported a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases after puja shopping started and the public started thronging market places.
On Sunday, the state reported 3,983 new Covid-19 cases, including 813 fresh viral outbreaks in Kolkata alone.
This was the highest number of cases of the contagion in Bengal on a single day.
The positivity rate in the state has shot up from 6.6% on September 5 to 9.1% on Sunday.