Durga Puja pandals ‘no entry zones’ for visitors

Our Bureau Kolkata | Updated on October 19, 2020

Workers work to construct a pandal ahead of Durga Puja festival, in Kolkata on Monday   -  PTI

Durga Puja pandals in West Bengal will be ‘no entry’ zones for visitors, the Calcutta High Court said on Monday. The order, which came three days ahead of the State’s biggest festival, has ruled that only a few organisers will be allowed inside pandals.

In case of big pandals, 25-30 people, organisers and priests included, will be allowed entry at all times while for the smaller ones, l5 people will be allowed, in view of Covid-19.

“In public interest, all pandals whereat Durga Puja is being celebrated this year are made no-entry zones for members of the public,” the order by Justice Arijit Banerjee and Justice Sanjib Banerjee read. The order maintains that pandals will have to erect barricades — 5 metres ahead of entry for smaller ones; and 10 metres for larger ones.

“The only exception would be for the named personnel, including the priest, who will be identified by the puja organisers in advance and whose names would be displayed for checks to be made at any point of time. At the smaller pandals 15 persons will be named in the list who may have access to the no-entry zone at all times. The number will be 25-30 in respect of the bigger to the biggest pandals,” the order reads.

Justification for order

The Court has held that if the pandals are made no-entry zones and a certain distance from all sides of the pandals is covered, the public at large will be aware that there will not be any access within the pandals.

“It will also be possible in such a scenario for the virtual coverage of the pandals, as has been appropriately suggested in the guidelines by the State, and for ordinary citizens to make do with virtual darshan this year,” the order held.

The Court in its order pointed out that “there does not appear to have been any curb in the number of pujas, particularly public pujas” and the common citizen should be discouraged from milling around or crowding or gathering in or around the pandals.

It pointed out that if the guidelines issued cannot be implemented in the lead-up to the pujas and the overcrowding in the markets in Kolkata and the small towns elsewhere has remained mostly unchecked, “the same cannot be allowed to be repeated over the four or five days during the Durga Puja celebrations.”

The judges also referred to the limited police personnel, volunteers and other administrative officials and workers while maintaining that there are not enough policemen in Kolkata to man crowds at the city’s 3000-plus pandals or across 31,000 other pujas of the State.

It has also pointed out that at a time when students across disciplines have been prevented from attending educational institutions for more than six months, it is “rather incongruous that puja festivities continue as in the previous years.”

Published on October 19, 2020

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