Pandemic, ban on visitors, and rain ensure Kolkata’s Durga Puja remains muted one
Puja organisers said while the number of visitors is low this year because of the threat of the pandemic, the crowd seemed to have dropped even further after the high court’s order banning the entry of visitors inside pandalsUpdated: Oct 23, 2020, 10:11 IST
The threat of the pandemic, Calcutta high court’s ban on the entry of visitors inside pandals and now the rain have kept Durga Puja in Kolkata a muted one this year. Hordes of pandal hoppers, that move through the streets of Kolkata on every puja night, were missing on the first day of Durga Puja, police and puja organisers said.
“Thursday was the first day of Durga Puja but the massive crowd, which we usually get to see on Durga Sasthi night – the first day of the week-long festival – was conspicuously missing last night,” said an official at the traffic control room of the Kolkata Police.
Puja organisers said while the number of visitors is low this year because of the threat of the pandemic, the crowd seemed to have dropped even further after the high court’s order banning the entry of visitors inside pandals and mandating authorities to put up barricades outside pandals declaring them as no-entry zones.
“This is an exceptional year as the Covid-19 pandemic is going on. The number of visitors is very low compared to other years. The crowd of Durga Sasthi was hardly 20% of what we get every year on the first day of the puja,” said Saswata Basu secretary of the Forum for Durgotsab, which represents more than 350 city pujas.
Every year, the police and puja committees have had a tough time managing the crowd, particularly in some of the prominent and award-winning pujas. In fact, in 2015, the Kolkata Police had to close down a puja in south Kolkata after there was a stampede-like situation.
“The local suburban trains, which bring is lakhs of visitors from the adjoining districts, are not running. The high court order also seemed to have taken a toll. Usually on Durga Sasthi night, we have a tough time managing the crowd as people come in thousands. This time, there were just a few hundred,” said a member of a puja committee in north Kolkata.
Meanwhile, from Friday morning, it started to drizzle in Kolkata and its outskirts. The IMD had warned on Thursday that a depression had formed over the Bay which was likely to cross the West Bengal coast on Friday afternoon.
“Heavy to very heavy rainfall is expected in the three coastal districts of North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas and East Midnapore on Friday. Isolated heavy rainfall in expected in the adjacent districts including Kolkata and Howrah,” said Sanjib Banerjee, deputy director of the IMD’s regional weather forecasting centre in Kolkata.
Strong winds at the speed of up to 50 km per hour may hit Kolkata. There could be water logging areas in the low lying areas of Kolkata. Fishing, sea-bound activities and ferry services have been suspended in the coastal areas and people living on the islands of the Sunderbans have been advised to stay indoors.