MUMBAI: Two days ahead of Chhath Puja the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has issued guidelines, restricting gatherings near beaches, riverbanks and ponds to perform rituals this year. The civic body has allowed puja around artificial ponds at ward level and sought help from local police to ensure social distancing is followed.
With the rituals, commencing from November 20, 2020, BJP corporators, had last week demanded that permission for performing Chhath puja should be given subject to the terms and conditions and safety protocol stressing on wearing of masks and social distancing.
BJP corporators had demanded that artificial ponds like the ones provided during Ganesh Chaturthi should be facilitated to prevent people from gathering on beaches and public water bodies in large numbers.
Chhath Puja is observed with fervour even in Mumbai, with lakhs of devotees thronging to various beaches/water bodies to perform the ritual every year.
The Mumbai civic body has also directed ward offices to set up health camps in every ward near these artificial ponds and conduct COVID test for devotees visiting for puja.
"We fear there might be a second wave of COVID-19 outbreak. In the wake of that, there is no point in taking a chance and risking lives by allowing them to perform puja at beaches like previous years. We have rejected requests from various organisation to allow gatherings following safety protocols. We have instead allowed puja to be performed at artificial ponds. Groups organising the puja functions can seek permission from local municipal ward offices," said a senior BMC official.
With a spike in COVID-19 cases, state governments are stepping up to issue guidelines to regulate the way the festival will be celebrated this year. Chhath Puja also called ‘Dala Puja’ celebrated majorly in Bihar, Jharkhand, and other parts of north and east India is a four-day festival where women fast and congregate near water bodies to offer prayers to the Sun God.
This year, with the danger of COVID-19 infection lurking and fear of rapid virus transmissions, prompted the Delhi government to ban Chhath Puja rituals in public places and large gatherings. Even the Calcutta High Court, has put a stop on Chhath Puja processions across West Bengal.
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