Durga Puja pandals in West Bengal to be no-entry zones for visitors

Calcutta High Court ordered a ban on pandal hopping on Monday due to the Covid-19 cases

Durga Puja pandals of West Bengal have been announced as a no-entry zone for all the visitors by the Calcutta High Court due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Only organizers and committee members can enter the pandals. There are over 37,000 puja committees in West Bengal which include 3,000 in Kolkata. The High Court ordered a list of names to be put up outside the pandals and only they can enter for puja-related work. The number is limited to 25 for big pandals and 15 for the smaller ones.

The order arrives amidst the increased enthusiasm among people to celebrate the five-day long Durga Puja festival, starting from Tuesday. The court said that barricades need to be applied at the entrance of the pandals. The distance for smaller pandal is five meters while for the larger ones it is 10.

The corona-virus cases have been on a spike as the people started their puja shopping. Social distancing rules were not followed and masks were rarely worn. On Sunday, the deaths in Bengal crossed the 6,000-mark with 64 more fatalities. The state health department data showed a total of 3,21,036 cases.

Mr. Saswat Bose, head of Durgotsav Forum, the umbrella organization of 400 of Kolkata's biggest pujas said, "This is a huge setback for us. For four months, we have been working at making things safe for visitors. We had made masks mandatory, sanitizing gates were in place, we bought machines for thermal screening. Our exit gates were bigger than entry gates. But now... the rule about barricade 10 meters before the pandal, how will the crowds disperse from the barricade? There will be more chaos!" My first reaction is a huge disappointment."

"The puja we do is not a matter of loss or gain. We do puja from a passion. We are shocked. Let's see what happens," he added.

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