The Calcutta High Court on Monday directed the West Bengal administration to declare all Durga Puja pandals in the state as ‘No-Entry Zones’.
The court said that not more than 25 puja organisers will be allowed inside pandals and that their names will have to be displayed on boards outside.
While bigger pujas will have to restrict entry 10 metres ahead of the pandals, smaller ones will have no entry zones from 5 metes. All puja committees will have to display ‘No-Entry’ boards at the demarcated areas. The state government will have to file a compliance report of this order within four days of Lakshmi Puja.
The order was passed by the Chief Justice’s Division Bench of in response to a PIL filed casting apprehension about the Covid-19 situation in the state and the possible spread by lakhs of pandal-hoppers during the five days of festivities starting this week.
The court’s directive came on a day when hordes of people were seen flocking big-ticket pandals in Kolkata, with little or no regard for social distancing norms. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee last week had announced that revellers can go pandal-hopping from ‘Tritiya’ - three days before the rituals begin — to avoid crowding on the last four days of the annual extravaganza.
The court last week had directed the state government to use financial aid given to Durga Puja clubs for improving police and public bonding, and increase the number of women in community policing. The court had also instructed the government that the funds be used for procuring masks, sanitizers and face shields and not for conducting musical soirees, puja activities or entertainment for the organisers.
The court had also sought an explanation from the state government to justify Rs 50,000 donations given to the Durga Puja Committees. It had enquired whether the state government has given similar financial aid during other festivals like Eid or not.