The Calcutta High Court’s direction ordering to make Durga Puja pandals as no-entry zones for visitors and allowing only 25 members for big-ticket Pujas and 15 for the smaller ones, evinced mixed reactions from the organisers today.
Several organisers welcomed the order claiming that they were already anticipating such restrictions and were already prepared with provisions.
“We welcome the order and have already made provisions in which visitors would be able to see the idol and other arrangements while keeping a distance from the pandal. As safety comes first, we are ready to work according to the direction,” said the organisers of Chetla Agrani Club. Echoing Chetla Agrani Club, secretary of FD Block Sarbajanin Puja, Soumitra Mukhopadhyay, said, “We had already made arrangements of social distancing and barricading in a way that the visitors would not have to enter the altar area.”
However, a section of organisers felt that the direction of the High Court came too late. As many eminent puja pandals have already been unveiled and numerous committees have plans of welcoming visitors in a day or two, the order at this point of time, to a section of organisers was an additional burden in their already restrained budget. “The order at this point of time has brought us in a difficult situation as our puja pandal has already been unveiled,” said a member of an eminent puja committee in South Kolkata.
“Also, we have over three hundred members and naming only 25 of them has put us into a dilemma. Naming only a section of members might bring disappointment to others,” he added.
Another such committee member of a puja pandal that has been one of the major crowd pullers in North Kolkata, said, “The puja is ‘Sarbajanin,’ which means it is for all. From the point of the puja committee, how do we bar the entry for anyone? This is a critical responsibility and we hope that the authorities will provide us with police personnel to control the crowd.”
Member of another Durga Puja club in South Kolkata, said, “Had such directions been given a little earlier, implementing the orders would have been easier. We would have been in a position to arrange things in a better and smoother way. Such directions at this point of time will add burden on our budget which was already restricted due to the pandemic.”
Revellers throng pandals, flouting Covid norms
Braving intermittent rain, hordes of people were seen flocking big-ticket Durga puja pandals in the city on Monday morning with little or no regard for social distancing norms.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had last week announced that revellers can go pandal hopping from ‘Tritiya’ – three days before the rituals begin — to avoid crowding on the last four days of the annual extravaganza.
At some of the popular marquees in the city, such as Ekdalia Evergreen, Singhi Park, Sribhumi Sporting and Badamtala Asar Sangha, people were not allowed to step inside without masks.
Crowd management, however, remained a challenge as swarms of revellers gathered outside the pandals, despite repeated warnings by the puja committees.
At Sribhumi Sporting, in the northern part of the city, many were seen huddling at different corners to click photographs of the deity, bedecked in gold jewellery.
Subham Das, a pandalhopper from Dumdum, said outside the Sribhumi pandal, “This pujo is a must-see for me, COVID or no COVID. What is the point if I can’t stay back a little after coming all way from my place, which is some 8km away?”
Partha Ghosh, an office bearer of Shivmandir Durga Puja in south Kolkata, said volunteers at the exit and the entry points are ensuring that people do not take off masks or push and shove one another. Rita Debnath, when asked why she wasn’t covering her nose, hit back saying she was finding it difficult to breathe with the mask on. “Why just me, there are so many others who are not following protocols,” the woman, in her mid-60s, said outside a shop in Gariahat