TO CONTROL crowds and maintain Covid health protocols, Kolkata Police will man the city streets from October 19, which is the third day of Durga Puja or “tritiya”. Puja organisers have already been told to strictly abide by the state government’s guidelines, which include open pandals, ban on cultural programmes, and mandatory use of masks and sanitisers. The government has allotted October 29 for idol immersions.
The decisions were taken at a meeting held at the state capital’s Netaji Indoor Stadium on Friday and was attended by the Kolkata Police, Fire Services Department, Kolkata Municipal Corporation and puja organisers. Recently, a number of meetings, including one presided by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, were held.
“Our force will be on the streets of Kolkata from ‘tritiya’. We will ensure that all Covid protocols are followed and also that those on the streets are not inconvenienced. The Puja committees are cooperating with us. We have already started naka checking in various points and are keeping vigil at markets, shopping areas and malls where festive shopping is on,” said a senior officer of Kolkata Police who was present in the meeting.
Apart from manning the streets, Kolkata Police officers will also keep a watch on Puja pandals ensuring smooth passage of visitors while maintaining social distancing norms and wearing masks. Besides, watch towers, drones will be used to keep a track on the crowd.
According to Kolkata Police, as many as 2,509 pujas were organised last year in Kolkata itself. So, it will be a challenging task to manage crowd this year amid the pandemic.
“It will be a challenge for us. So far, we have the cooperation of Puja committees and have asked them to submit a detailed plan of crowd management. If they want, we can do that for them. In North Kolkata, several pujas are organised in lanes and bylanes. So, we have to extra careful. We will not allow overcrowding in pandals,” said an officer-in-charge of a North Kolkata police station.
Through guidelines, Puja organisers have been already told to have open spacious pandals with separate entry and exit points. They have been asked to provide with ample sanitisers and also thermal guns if possible. Cultural programmes have been banned and the organises have been directed to hold inauguration and award ceremonies through online initiatives.
The organisers have also been asked to ensure that during rituals only small groups of people are present near the pandals. Organisers will ask visitors to bring their own flowers during ‘pushpanjali’ and avoid crowding in stalls near pandals.
This year, the state government has already cancelled the much-hyped Puja carnival.
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