Amid fears of a surge in Covid-19 cases in West Bengal, the Calcutta High Court on Monday said Durga Puja pandals would be no-entry zones for visitors. Hearing a PIL by Ajay Kumar, the High Court said revelers would not be allowed within a five-metre distance for small pandals and 10 metre for big pandals and directed organisers to erect barricades at their entrance.
Only organisers or committee members would be allowed inside the pandals, the HC ordered, limiting the number to 25 for big pandals and 15 for the smaller ones. A list of names of organisers will have to be put up outside pandals and only they can enter for puja-related work. The HC also asked each puja committee to submit a blueprint on crowd management. There are over 37,000 puja committees in West Bengal, including 3000 in Kolkata.
The court was of the view that there were not enough policemen in Kolkata and in the districts to manage the crowd during puja.
At Sreebhumi Durga puja pandal in Laketown in Kolkata on Monday (Express photo by Shashi Ghosh)
“The court said no visitors will be allowed to enter into the pandals. Only some people from puja organisers will be allowed an entry. The police will have to ensure that such measures are maintained,” said counsel Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, who appeared on behalf of the petitioner.
The order comes days after the High Court directed Durga Puja organisers to spend 75 per cent of the Rs 50,000 grant given by the Mamata Banerjee government on the procurement of Covid-19 protection equipment like sanitisers and masks while the rest of the amount must be spent on strengthening public-police bonding.
The state administration told the judges that the grant was meant to help increase public awareness about Covid-19 protocols, and purchase of sanitisers and masks.
However, several pandal committees like the popular Santosh Mitra Square have made arrangements for virtual ‘darshan’ this time, while barring the physical entry of visitors. There are other puja associations that have said revelers cannot be stopped from visiting the marquee pandals and have made arrangements for safety of people.
Bhawanipur 75 Pally Durga Puja pandal has installed a special sanitiser foot mat and a hand sanitiser kiosk fitted with sensors and antimicrobial film protection. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had recently announced that people can start visiting marquee pandals from ‘Tritiya’ (October 19) to avoid crowding.
The Covid-19 death toll in West Bengal went past the 6,000-mark on Sunday with 64 more fatalities, even as a record number of 3,983 fresh cases pushed the tally to 3,21,036, the health department said.