Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday appealed to rival political leaders “not to do politics” over Chhath Puja even as he asserted that the restrictions imposed on its celebrations at riverbanks and other public places were meant for people’s safety amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
He also urged that leaders of other parties should instead join the efforts of the Delhi government in raising awareness about the risks involved of the coronavirus infection if people in large numbers enter into water bodies.
“We also want that life should be back on track, and Chhath Puja should be celebrated with traditional fervour. But people offer ‘arghyas’ (to the Sun God) in the evening and the next morning by entering into a water body. There is much risk involved in it as even if one person is infected with the coronavirus, he or she can spread the infection to everyone else around through the medium of water,” Kejriwal told reporters.
Delhi units of both the BJP and the Congress have demanded that Chhath Puja celebrations should be allowed in the national capital. The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) in its order on Thursday prohibited Chhath Puja celebrations at public places, including riverbanks and temples, in view of Covid-19. Chhath Puja was prohibited at public places in Delhi last year as well in view of the pandemic.
Chhath Puja, a four-day festival, is celebrated in Delhi largely by people hailing from Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh called Purvanchalis. It has been considered as an important vote bank-related activity by all major parties here. This year, it falls early in November. BJP MP Manoj Tiwari alleged on Friday that Kejriwal had “insulted” lakhs of Purvanchalis in Delhi by banning Chhath Puja celebrations in the city.
Tiwari, who held a meeting with Chhath Puja committees at his residence here, said he would be forced to stage a “massive protest” along with Purvanchalis (people of Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh settled in Delhi) if the ban was not lifted.
“I appeal, with folded hands, to leaders of other parties not to politicise the issue, not to play politics over it. They should, instead, join the efforts of the government about raising awareness on the safety of people amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic,” Kejriwal said on Saturday.
This decision was “imperative” to ensure the safety of people, more so when Delhi has fought four waves of the pandemic, the Chief Minister pointed out.
“So, many people lost their lives in the last wave, in April-May, and we have saved lives with great challenges. The decision was taken with a view to ensuring that no one gets infected by Covid-19 again,” he said.
Despite a fall in daily cases during the last several days, Kejriwal had recently cautioned that the chances of a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic were quite real even as he asserted that his government was preparing to combat it on a “war-footing”.