Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday rolled out plans on how to hold the Durga puja – the biggest festival in West Bengal – during the coronavirus pandemic, while showering sops on thousands of puja organisers and hawkers.
“We will surely organise the Durga puja this year. 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 while launching a veiled attack against the opposition.
“We will put coronavirus in lockdown and hold the puja this year,” the CM said.
This year more than 37,000 pujas would be organised across the state, including more than 2,500 in Kolkata and around 1,700 pujas which are organised by women. The list doesn’t include those organised inside housing societies and houses.
“We are facing hardships and are running short of funds. We have spent more than Rs 2,500 crore. But I know puja committees are in problem and the state would provide you a grant of Rs 50,000 each. I know the finance secretary would be angry. But I would request him to give 81,000 hawkers Rs 2,000 each for the puja month,” said Banerjee.
Here is a list of what you can expect this time:
* No Immersion Carnival on Red Road this year.
* No cultural programs during puja days
* Masks, sanitisers to be made mandatory within a radius of 500 metres of every pandal.
* More airy and open pandals with special stress on physical distance. Clubs to deploy more volunteers.
* Process of selecting the best pujas and awarding them to be done virtually.
* Permission for pujas to be done online
* Puja organisers need not pay the fees to the civic body and fire brigade. Power supply fees slashed to 50%
* Pandal hopping allowed at night for nine days
* Puja inauguration to be done in a small scale and mostly virtually
The chief minister also announced a few sops for the civic volunteers and ASHA workers. While the festive season has already started with the Mahalaya and Viswakarma puja on September 17, the Durga puja would be held between October 22-25.