Kolkata Puja Organisers Seek Review Of 'Pandals No-Entry Zones' Order

Durga Puja: Yesterday, the High Court said only organisers will be allowed inside the pandals and limited the number to 25 for big pandals and 15 for the smaller ones.

Durga puja pandals will be no-entry zones for visitors, the Calcutta High Court said on Monday.

Highlights

  • 400 top Durga Puja organisers in Kolkata will ask court to review order
  • The organisers will approach the court as part of the Durgotsav Forum
  • High Court said only organisers would be allowed inside pandals
Kolkata/ New Delhi:

400 top Durga Puja organisers in Kolkata asked the Calcutta High Court today to review its order declaring puja pandals "no-entry zones" for visitors because of the coronavirus outbreak. The High Court will hear its request tomorrow.

The organisers approached the court as part of the Durgotsav Forum, an umbrella body of Durga Puja organisers, with just two days to go for Bengal's biggest festival.

Yesterday, the High Court said only organisers would be allowed inside pandals; 25 for bigger Pujas and 15 for the smaller ones. The names of the organisers would have to be put up on a display board daily and could not be changed, the court said.

The court also asked organisers to put up barricades outside pandals -- five meters from the entrance for smaller celebrations and double that for the bigger ones.

The Durgotsav Forum had expressed shock at the order.

"This is a huge setback for us. For four months, we have been working at making things safe for visitors. We had made masks mandatory, sanitising gates were in place, we bought machines for thermal screening. Our exit gates were bigger than entry gates. But now... the rule about barricade 10 metres before the pandal, how will the crowds disperse? There will be more chaos," Saswat Bose, the chief of the forum, said on Monday.

Last month, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had announced plans to "put coronavirus in lockdown and hold the puja this year", implying that the rival BJP would try to blame her if the festival was cancelled and even if there was a virus spike after the Puja. She had also announced a Rs 50,000 grant for Durga puja committees in the state.

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"We will surely organise the Durga Puja this year. We have to avoid crowds at any cost because vultures are sitting out there to blame us if we don't allow the puja or if any spike occurs after the puja. They have no responsibility," said the Chief Minister, without naming the BJP.

After the court order, Mamata Banerjee met with the administration to decide on the next step.

In the run-up to the Durga Puja celebrations in Bengal, the surging crowds out on the streets shopping, without observing precautions like distancing or masks, have raised fears about a second wave of coronavirus in the state. Medical experts and epidemiologists have raised red flags about an exponential rise in virus cases after the Puja.

Bengal has reported over 3.2 lakh COVID-19 cases and more than 6,000 deaths so far.

"Life has not been normal for the human species since March, 2020 and it may have been better if restrictions were put in place as to how the Durga Puja festivities would be celebrated this year," the High Court noted.