For Durga Puja Celebrations, Mamata Banerjee's Big Announcement

Government grant to Durga Puja organising committees in the state raised from Rs50,000 to Rs60,000

Mamata Banerjee said a mega rally in Kolkata on September 1 will open Durga Puja celebrations.

Kolkata:

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today announced that her government shall increase the grant to Durga Puja organising committees in the state from Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000. The concession on electricity charges incurred by puja committees shall also be raised to 60 per cent from the current 50 per cent.

The Bengal Chief Minister also said that a mega rally will be organised in Kolkata on September 1 to thank UNESCO for the inclusion of Kolkata's Durga Puja on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Kolkata's Durga Puja is the first festival in Asia to have received this recognition from UNESCO.

Ms Banerjee also declared that all state government offices will remain closed from September 30 to October 10 to mark the annual autumnal festival.

She made these announcements during a meeting with Durga Puja organising committee members at the city's Netaji Indoor Stadium today. The state government wants to promote Durga Puja as an international festival and Ms Banerjee has asked all puja organisers to ensure that foreign tourists do not face any problem during their visit to the city.

According to Ms Banerjee, the mega rally will start at 2 pm on September 1, from Jorasanko Thakurbari (the birthplace of Rabindranath Tagore) in North Kolkata and will pass down Rani Rasmani Avenue and reach Dharmatala in Central Kolkata.

The Chief Minister requested all puja organisers to participate in the mega procession. She also requested that students of grades 11 and 12 should be allowed to participate in it. The procession will cover roughly five kilometres. Ms Banerjee said representatives from UNESCO will attend the procession as guests.

"This year's puja is going to be special. We must plan very well this time. Lot of people from abroad are going to visit," Ms Banerjee said.

While Durga Puja begins on September 30 this year, the Bengal Chief Minister said celebrations will begin early, on September 1, with the mega procession. "We will have a rally -- not a political rally, but a rally to welcome the Goddess. It will be like a carnival. We will thank the UNESCO with the rally on September 1, in the presence of Consul-Generals, prominent industrialists and other distinguished persons," Ms Banerjee added.

Celebrations will be held not just in the state capital of Kolkata, but also in the districts around the same time as the mega procession.

Taking a dig at the central government, Ms Banerjee said: "The centre has stopped funds even for the 100-day Programme. Our coffers are empty, but we are still increasing the financial assistance [to puja committees] from ₹50,000 to ₹60,000. I pray, Maa Durga will fill our coffers. We are also increasing the concession on electricity bills for puja committees to 60 per cent from the current 50 per cent."

Targeting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), she said: "People say, 'they don't allow Durga Puja in Kolkata.' They don't see that nowhere in the world is Durga Puja celebrated like the way it is in Kolkata."

There are around 43,000 registered Durga Puja committees in West Bengal, apart from the smaller pujas and those conducted in homes. There are 2,141 Durga Pujas organised by women in Bengal.

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