Visitors will not be allowed to enter Durga puja pandals in West Bengal and only a selected number of organisers be allowed this year, Calcutta High Court ruled on October 19, just three days ahead of the biggest festival in the east India state.
The two-judge bench comprising Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Arijit Banerjee also limited the presence of puja organisers to 25 for big-budget pujas and 15 for the small-budget pujas in view the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bench held that all pandals will have to erect barricades at their entrance – the distance is five meters for small pandals and double that, for the big ones.
The high court issued the ruling after advocate general Kishore Dutta submitted guidelines before the bench for maintaining social distancing before the puja pandals.
The bench said 30,000 police are too small to control the surging visitors of two-three lakhs visitors in Kolkata where they are nearly 3,000 pandals.
The court asked Kolkata Police and the director general of police to submit affidavits separately before the bench on the affairs after Laxmi Puja.
In September, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had declared that she would “put coronavirus in lockdown and hold the puja this year”.
“We will surely organise the Durga puja this year,” she had said without naming the opposition.
“We have to avoid crowds at any cost because vultures are sitting out there to blame us if we don’t allow the puja or if any spike occurs after the puja. They have no responsibility,” she said.
The coronavirus figures have been on the rise across Kolkata as people, over the past weeks, started shopping for the pujas throwing caution to the winds.
On October 18, the COVID-19 deaths in West Bengal went past the 6,000-mark, with 64 more fatalities. The state also logged a record number of 3,983 fresh cases, which brought the total up to 3,21,036, showed data from the state health department.