Kolkata Durga Puja organisers issue fresh guidelines amid spike in Covid-19 cases
With Kolkata witnessing a sharp spike in Covid-19 cases ahead of Durga Puja, organisers have decided to cancel all cultural programs that used to be held in every locality on puja days to avoid crowding.
This comes at a time when doctors have warned the Mamata Banerjee administration that laxity during puja days could result in a three to four-fold rise in Covid-19 cases. They have cited the example of Kerala where cases had shot up after Onam festivities and the government had to invoke section 144 to avoid gatherings.
“This year, we have requested all puja committees not to organise any kind of cultural programs which are usually organised every evening on the sidelines of the puja. This would result in crowding as people would sit in front of the dais to enjoy the programs. The chief minister has asked us to avoid crowding at all cost,” said Saswata Basu, general secretary of the Forum for Durgotsab.
This year, more than 37,000 pujas would be organised across the state, including more than 2,500 in Kolkata and around 1,700 pujas which are organised by women. The list doesn’t include those organised inside housing societies and houses. The forum has more than 370 of the city’s most prominent and biggest pujas under its banner, including the ones that are patronised by some senior ministers in Mamata Banerjee’s cabinet.
With the festive season going on and people crowding at markets for puja shopping, the number of new Covid-19 cases reported every day has already shot up alarmingly in the city. While on September 8 Kolkata registered 380 new cases of Covid-19, on October 8 the city registered 765 new cases. Durga puja starts on October 23.
In mid-July, when Kolkata was registering less than 400 new cases every day, the forum had come up with a list of dos and don’ts for the puja organisers. Hence, a fresh list of dos and don’ts was issued on Friday, amid a drastic spike in Covid-cases.
“Situations have changed now and cases are rising. We need to be more cautious. It has been decided that none would be allowed to enter the pandal without wearing a mask. The puja committees would deploy more volunteers to check this and whether safe distance is being maintained in queues. Hand sanitisers would be provided. Visitors won’t be allowed to stay inside the pandal for more than a few minutes,” said Basu.
The West Bengal government has already cancelled the post-immersion carnival which had become a major crowd puller. Puja organisers have been asked to keep the pandals as airy and open as possible. CM Banerjee has already announced Rs 50,000 for each puja committee.