The Delhi government on Wednesday allowed chhath puja celebrations in capital at designated places on November 10 with strict protocols, said Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia. “Covid-19 cases in Delhi are significantly low for a while now. Experts are also of the opinion that Chhath Puja celebrations can be allowed with some strict protocols in place. It can be celebrated only in designated spots with strict adherence to social distancing and other Covid-19 regulations. It is a major festival for a large number of Delhi residents,” said Sisodia at a press briefing after attending a meeting of the DDMA.
Delhi has around 1,100 designated sites, most of them located on the banks of Yamuna, for Chhath Puja celebrations. Every year, the government makes arrangements at these sites — toilets, sheds, changing rooms, drinking water, lights, medical camps, etc.
Chhath Puja will be celebrated on November 10 six days after Diwali. It is a community festival involving worship of the Sun and taking dips in a water body. It is popular among people from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand, collectively called the Poorvanchal region. People from these states account for over one-third of Delhi’s population of around 20 million, according to government estimates and migration data from Census 2011.
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on October 14 wrote to lieutenant governor Anil Baijal urging him to allow Chhath Puja celebrations in Delhi with adherence to Covid-19 protocols. On September 30, the DDMA issued an order prohibiting the celebration of Chhath Puja at riverbanks, near water bodies, open grounds, in temples, and other public spaces. Limited restrictions were imposed on other festivals such as Durga Puja and Dussehra.
Chhath Puja in public spaces was prohibited last year too because of the pandemic. Meanwhile even the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) protested against restrictions on Chhath Puja celebrations and organized several protests in the last three weeks. On October 9, Kejriwal said the DDMA prohibited the celebrations because of the inherent risk of transmission due to the rituals which involve gathering in large numbers.
On October 12, after BJP Member of Parliament Manoj Tiwari sustained injuries during a protest outside Kejriwal’s residence, Sisodia wrote to Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya urging the Centre to draft protocols and issue necessary orders with regard to the festival. The issue gains more importance in the light of upcoming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, which Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party will be contesting. Also, Delhi goes to the municipal polls next year. Currently, the BJP controls all the corporations in the city.