The West Bengal government has not yet taken a decision on challenging the Calcutta High Court order banning the entry of visitors to Durga Puja marquees (pandals) across the state, administration officials have said.
Following Monday’s court order declaring the pandals no-entry zones, Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay convened a meeting attended by all police superintendents and district magistrates. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee addressed the district officials from her home.
“We are yet to receive the High Court order. After receiving the order, we will go through it and after that we will decide. However, there is no such discussion within the government to challenge this order in the Supreme Court,” said a senior state administration official.
Senior state ministers and Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders also sounded cautious and refused to comment on the ruling.
“I have not received a copy of the High Court order. I will comment only after getting the copy,” said Minister of Urban Development Firhad Hakim. Hakim, who organises a popular Durga Puja at Chetla Agrani in Kolkata, said this year the festivities would be livestreamed puja on the website and social media handles of the club.
State panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee, who organises the popular Ekdalia Evergreen Durga Puja, said people have to abide by the High Court order. “We will wait for the direction from the state government on this. We are discussing the matter. But one has to abide by the court’s order.”
Senior TMC leader Atin Ghosh said, “There are several Durga Pujas in North Kolkata that take place within small bylanes. Going by today’s court order, such pujas will be out of bounds for visitors.”
Meanwhile, apart from Alapan Bandyopadhyay, the other senior officials who attended the government meeting were Home Secretary Hari Krishna Dwivedi, Director General of Police Virendra, security adviser Surajit Kar Purakayastha, and Kolkata Commissioner of Police Anuj Sharma.
“All the district officials were told to be alert about the possible surge of Covid cases during and after Durga Puja. Every district was told to prepare proper guidelines for visitors and assist them in adhering to it,” said a senior government official.
Alapan Bandyopadhyay instructed the officials to take adequate measures to ensure people receive proper health care during the Puja and are not denied treatment at hospitals. Sufficient health care arrangements should be in place for emergencies, the Chief Secretary added. Bandyopadhyay told the district officials to ensure people out on the streets adhere to Covid-19 protocols, and wear masks. Ambulances should be kept ready to take Covid patients to treatment facilities, he added.
Following the meeting, the Department of Health tweeted. “During the upcoming Durga Puja festival, the West Bengal government is appealing to the people not to crowd together in food or clothing stores to control the infection and protect themselves. Be aware, stay healthy.” The state police also urged people to avoid crowding in markets, and follow all safety protocols.
Oppn welcomes court ruling, takes digs at Mamata govt
Kolkata: The Opposition parties in West Bengal on Monday welcomed the Calcutta High Court ruling banning the entry of visitors to Durga Puja pandals.
BJP leader and Union minister Babul Supriyo said, “Whatever has happened has happened for good. The [Covid-19] infection is increasing and measures are required to limit it.”
State BJP vice-president Joy Prakash Majumdar said, “The state government was not serious about checking the infection. It allowed Durga Puja to take place in its usual pomp and grandeur. The court has said the right thing.”
State Congress chief and the party’s Lok Sabha leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said, “Durga Puja in Bengal is not just a puja but a festival… But the way Covid-19 infections are rising across the state, and at a time when community transmission is taking place, we have to introspect whether we want to celebrate the festival or save our lives”
Congress leader Abdul Mannan and Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly said, “Now we will have to see how the administration implements the measures. The politics behind organising Durga Puja this year was unwarranted.”
The CPM MLA Sujan Chakraborty said, “This has come as a relief to the people. The CM herself engaged in virtual inauguration of Puja pandals, but put people’s lives in danger by allowing them to physically visit the pandals.” ENS
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