No ‘pandal hopping’ this year: Bengal’s Durga Puja pandals declared ‘no entry zones’ amid surge in Covid cases

About 37,000 Durga Pujas are being organised across West Bengal this year. (Photos: ANI/The Indian Express)

In a major order that would directly impact nearly 40,000 Durga Puja pandals across West Bengal, the Calcutta High Court on Monday directed the authorities to treat the community venues as ‘no entry zones’ in wake of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. The High Court also said that only the Puja organizers will be allowed to visit the pandals. A fixed list, which can’t be changed on daily basis, naming all the organizers would be pasted outside the pandals. This would mean that only those named in the list will be able to visit the pandals.

This puts a brake on those looking for hopping pandals this year. Health experts have been warning of a surge in Covid-19 infections during the festive season. Public celebrations in many states have been banned for this year’s Navratri. In Gujarat, the state government has banned the various committees from holding ‘Garba’ fests. The gathering of people in one place has been the main cause of the rise in coronavirus in India. Several religious places have been shut down despite the unlock guidelines by the Union Home Ministry to contain the surge.

According to the order by the division bench of Justices Arijit Banerjee and Sanjib Banerjee, this year the Durga Puja pandals will be treated as containment zones across West Bengal. The court noted that the state police and other officials are not equipped to tackle the crowd. Up to 25 members of a Puja committee can enter the pandal. No other visitor will be allowed. About 37,000 Durga Pujas are being organised across West Bengal this year. The Monday order by the High Court would impact the footfall and other arrangements. While the Navratris began on October 17, the Durga Puja celebrations will begin from Thursday i.e. October 22.

In Delhi also, the coronavirus has changed the way people are celebrating Durga Puja. Several organisers in and around Delhi have restricted the visitors, while others are opting for online ‘darshan’ and ‘anjali’. Some have also arranged home delivery of ‘bhog’ to devotees. Others are going for online donations. On Sunday, West Bengal registered 3,983 fresh corona infections, which was biggest single-day spike in the state.

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