October 6, 2021 4:05:23 am
The West Bengal government has published the Durga Puja guidelines, days after the Calcutta High Court announced that directives similar to ones applied last year would be in place during the festivities this time too because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Friday, the court said that visitors would not be allowed to enter Durga Puja marquees (pandals) this time too, and the premises would be treated as containment zones. The same rules would apply during the Kali Puja as well, it added.
In a notification on Monday, the government said, “This year, Puja is being organised and celebrated in the middle of this unprecedented pandemic. This demands proper and adequate health safety measures for the citizens. Puja Committees must ensure the health and safety norms for themselves and for the participants and visitors.”
It added, “Pandals shall have to be spacious and should be kept open from all sides. If in case it becomes essential to have a closed ceiling, the sides will have to be kept open. Pandals must keep adequate space and arrangements for ensuring physical distancing in terms of the existing Covid-19 pandemic norms. There should be separate entry and exit arrangements with separate gates. Mingling and crowding should be avoided at all places. Floor markings and other signages should be made on entry and exit routes and assembly points to ensure compliance of physical distancing norms.”
The government announced that cultural programmes and fairs would not be allowed at Puja venues, and added that judges for various award programmes should not be allowed to enter the premises in huge convoys and large numbers.
“No more than two cars of judges at a time should be allowed to visit a pandal. Ideally, all visits for ‘judging’ the Pujas should be virtual and physical visits should be confirmed to the lean hours (between 10 am and 3 pm),” read the notification.
The Mamata Banerjee government said face masks and hand sanitisers would be compulsory at pandals. “To meet any exigency, organisers shall make adequate arrangements for distribution of masks in close vicinity of the pandal to the visitors who inadvertently come to the pandal premises without wearing masks. Use and availability of hand sanitisers should similarly be made compulsory in the pandal premises and neighbourhood,” it added.
The government said puja organisers should deploy an adequate number of volunteers to ensure that the rules — including physical distancing, wearing of masks, and use of sanitisers — are complied with.
“Volunteers themselves should wear face masks and face shields for safety. Keeping in view the health safety of participants and organisers, Anjali, Prasad Bitaran or Sindoor Khela should be organised by Puja Committees in a planned manner and to the extent possible in smaller groups with spaced out timings in a staggered way. Priests should use microphones to utter the mantra so that the sound reaches worshippers standing even far away and people do not have to assemble in small spaces. Devotees may be encouraged to offer Anjali with flowers brought from homes so that flower collection points in the pandals do not become congestion points,” read the notification.
The government said inaugurations and immersion ceremonies would have to be low-key events, and “wherever possible, inauguration should be in virtual mode”. It added, “Pre-planned allocation of time of ghat slots to different Puja Committees should be strictly adhered to. Ghats shall be properly sanitised before and during immersions with arrangements that facilitate the required physical distancing norms under the current situation. Protima [idols] must be taken to the ghats directly without any stopover at any place, avoiding unnecessary diversions.”
Announcing the concessions for Puja organisers, the state administration said the fire department would not charge any fees for its services. “The local bodies [urban and rural] shall also provide their services free of cost…,” it added.
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