CM announces guidelines for Durga Puja celebrations in Bengal

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on September 24, 2020 Published on September 24, 2020

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee addressing Durga Puja organisers, in Kolkata on Thursday   -  Debasish Bhaduri

Durga puja celebrations in Bengal will be a mellowed down affair, with a host of guidelines this year. These include open-to-air pandals, proper ventilation, crowd management rules, virtual inaugurations and a ban on cultural programmes.

There are at least 37,000 Durga puja committees (mostly clubs) across the State.

Of these over 2,500 are in Kolkata Police areas. There is also a significant number of resident welfare associations that organise pujas.

Durga puja budgets in some of the bigger clubs in Kolkata will be above ₹1 crore and draw a footfall of more than one lakh during each of the five-major Puja days.

According to Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, organisers have to ensure that there is enough ventilation at pandals.

This means, they either keep the structures open at the sides by not creating a box type structure; or leave it open-to-air. Entry and exit points have to be separately marked out.

“Have proper ventilation within the pandals. Either keep it side-open or have them open-to-air. Provide sanitisers and masks, use face-shields were required. Avoid crowding inside pandals or anywhere nearby,” Banerjee told puja organisers during a meeting.

Sanitisers have to be mandatorily provided to all those coming within 500 meters of the pandal. And only people with masks will be allowed inside a pandal.

The State government has barred any cultural event or programme during the Puja days.

Events like “sindoor khela” or anjali needs to be done in small batches.

The State government will not organise the annual immersion carnival, in view of the pandemic.

State largesse

The State government also announced a grant of ₹50,000 to each of the puja committees. This is a five-fold rise over the ₹10,000 grant that was given to them last year.

Despite the State being cash strapped, Banerjee justified the decision claiming that 2020 was a slowdown year and there’ll be pressure on sponsorships. A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests an outgo of at least ₹185 crore (37,000 clubs x ₹50,000) for the exchequer.

This apart, a waiver of all taxes by the local bodies and service fees charged by the fire brigade have been announced.

The Chief Minister also announced a 50 per cent discount on electricity bills for these puja committees. Electricity is amongst the major costs that puja organisers incur.

The other major announcement was a one-time grant of ₹2,000 to a few thousand hawkers of the State, leading to an expected outgo of ₹16 crore.

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Published on September 24, 2020
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