While Chhath Puja was celebrated with great fervor, with most of the puja committees abiding by the guidelines set by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) with regard to pollution in rivers, a few puja committee members were of the opinion that the number of devotees at the ghats had gone down this year, because of the bad state of the river waters.

“We follow all the rules and regulations every year, but the administration should also act sensibly. They should be considering the fact that the river waters are dirty and should, indeed, construct a separate drain and provide a different path for the filthy waters to flow. It is for this reason that devotees have started performing their rituals at their homes,” the president of the Hari Om Ghat puja committee at Santoshi Nagar, Bimal Dalmia, said.

“Waste waters from the entire Siliguri town go into the rivers. We abide by the laws, and we did not construct any temporary bridge, and did not use any banana plant or any sort of earth-moving machinery, thus going by the guidelines that had been laid down by the administration, but the government should also look into the sufferings of the devotees. How difficult must it be for them to get into the filthy waters for their puja rituals?” he added.

According to Bipin Bihari Gupta, the former president and a member of the Sri Sri Lal Mohan Moulik Niranjan Ghat puja committee, rivers flowing in the town are not in a state of being worshipped anymore.

“According to me, the number of devotees has gone down by 25 percent this time. The waters are so dirty, and this despite all the cleanliness programmes being carried out. Even I have decided to perform the rituals at my home from next year onwards,” he said.

However, the opinion of some other puja committee organisers seemed to vary. Vijay Kumar Sahani, the secretary of the Maa Santoshi Ghat puja committee, said, “We followed all the NGT norms. We did not litter the water bodies, and did not construct any bridge or use banana trees. In fact, there was a greater number of visitors this time.”

Sub-divisional officer (SDO) of Siliguri Sumant Sahay said puja committees seemed to have followed the directives issued to them.

“There were no constructions, which would block the river waters. The natural course of the river was not affected. I visited several ghats myself and there was no digging of the river beds. Sandbags were placed at the sides of the river bank so as to avert any untoward incident. So, overall, we had a peaceful Chhath Puja this year,” he said.