A day after the Calcutta High Court banned the entry of visitors to Durga Puja pandals, policemen hit the streets on Tuesday, enforcing Covid protocols and distributing masks across Kolkata and its adjoining areas. They also expect lower footfall at the pandals this year. While the high court decision has upset Puja organisers, the state’s frontline Covid warriors are heaving a sigh of relief.
“We were already distributing masks and urging people to maintain social distancing norms. With the court order, it will be easier for us to regulate the crowd now,” an on-duty police officer in Kolkata said on condition of anonymity.
On Monday, Kolkata Police Commissioner Anuj Sharma launched a Durga Puja guide map and had said the police would take part in a campaign to distribute masks. He also requested people to maintain social distancing norms and wear masks.
Nearly 40,000 community pujas are organised in the state and most of the pandals are already ready. Many have been inaugurated and were open to public. Despite the pandemic, the pandals turned out to be crowd magnets since the second day of Puja.
Police said a few pandals have already put up a “No Entry” board. “Usually, the crowd swells after evening. As an area with a radius of 10 metres for big pandals will be out of bounds for visitors, so, we expect a comparatively smaller crowd than before. We are hopeful that several people will not step out if entry to pandals is restricted,” said another police officer.
Photos of pandal hoppers amid the pandemic have already gone viral on social media, triggering a lot of criticisms. Doctors in Kolkata had also written an open letter to CM Mamata Banerjee to restrict movement of people during Durga Puja to prevent spike in infections.
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