The Calcutta High Court on Monday ordered that all Durga Puja pandals in West Bengal be declared as 'no-entry' zones, owing to the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic outbreak. According to the High Court order, only organisers can enter the pandals, while names of people allowed to enter will be displayed outside so as to avoid any confusion regarding the same.
Not more than 15-25 people will be allowed inside the pandals. Further, the High Court has also asked the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) government in West Bengal to conduct awareness campaigns aimed at controlling the crowd on the streets, during the festivities.
People across Kolkata are flocking to markets, shops, and malls for the customary 'Pujo shopping', leading to fears of surging coronavirus cases. "Minus the masks, nothing seems different in the city’s shopping spree," notes a report on the situation.
The Calcutta High Court Bench on this day held on a strict note that such instances cannot be permitted during Durga Puja. For the sake of the public, virtual coverage of the Pujo festivities across the city has been advised.
All pandals will be tagged as 'no-entry' zones. Moreover, the pandal area will also be barricaded, with the norm putting the blockade at 5 meters for the small-scale ones, and 10 meters for the larger, more prominent Pujo pandals.
The uniform set of rules will be followed for every one of the 34,000 Durga Puja committees that have received grant from the state government this year.
Several reports suggest that with India heading into its main holiday season with an economy freed of virus restrictions, the country should brace for a surge of cases in the coming weeks as it is now already on track to overtake the United States with the world's most novel coronavirus infections.
Although West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has repeatedly urged people to avoid going out for shopping or celebrations and to wear thick masks at all times during this year's Durga Puja, if the countdown is any indication — all requests have fallen to deaf ears.
Notably, West Bengal has allowed 42% more community Durga Puja gatherings this year and doubled state financing for them. The Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare has warned the situation will worsen if social distancing and other rules are not followed.
“There is no need to congregate in large numbers to prove your faith or your religion,” the minister, Harsh Vardhan, said in a broadcast last week, “if we do this we may be heading for big trouble.”
With the situation being way more aggravated than it could possibly be imagined, one can only hope that nothing short of a miraculous realisation of the reality of the pandemic can now make people and authorities act more responsibly than what is currently at display.