Calcutta High Court says Durga Puja pandals to be 'no-entry' zones for visitors across West Bengal

The pandals have also been told to set up barricades outside the pandals. For small pandals, the distance between its entry and the barricade has to be five metres, while for big pandals it has to be 10 metres

FP Staff October 19, 2020 17:58:40 IST
Calcutta High Court says Durga Puja pandals to be 'no-entry' zones for visitors across West Bengal

Women, some wearing face masks, perform rituals outside a temple in Kolkata on 17 Oct. AP

The Calcutta High Court on Monday issued directions that all the Durga Puja pandals in West Bengal (between 34,000 and 37,000) be designated 'no-entry' zones for visitors in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to several media reports.

This, as preparations are underway for the major festival set to begin on 22 October.

The court, stating that only organisers can be allowed inside the pandal, set a limit on the total number of organisers that can enter the pandal. According to reports, the limit for big pandals is 25, while it is 15 for the smaller ones.

A division bench of Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Arijit Banerjee also instructed that a list of the organisers' names be displayed outside the pandal, Livemint reported.

The pandals have also been told to set up barricades outside the pandals. For small pandals, the distance between its entry and the barricade has to be five metres, while for big pandals it has to be 10 metres.

The court, which was hearing a PIL questioning the permission granted to Durga Puja pandals amid the COVID-19 pandemic, also "observed that the police does not have enough resources to control the crowd if people descend to the streets," The Hindu reported.

The Hindu report quoted the lawyer for the petitioner as saying, "The Calcutta High Court said that in case of small Durga Puja pandals five metres and for large puja pandals ten metres should be declared a no-entry zone. The distance will have to be measured from the place where the boundary of Durga Puja pandal ends."

COVID protocols ignored: Report

Meanwhile, as the state is gearing up for its biggest festival, COVID-19 protocols seem to be ignored in Kolkata, PTI reported.

"A sea of people" has become a common sight at Kolkata's popular shopping destinations days ahead of Durga Puja, with people disregarding physical distancing norms, the report said.

"Durga Puja shopping cannot wait, corona or no corona," Rimpa Saha, a young homemaker, was quoted as saying by PTI on being asked about venturing onto packed markets amid the raging pandemic in the city.

Saha and thousands like her thronged marketplaces such as Gariahat, New Market, Hatibagan on Sunday.

"We are wearing masks and nothing will happen to us. We were stuck at home during the entire duration of the lockdown, but now everything has opened up," added Saha, making her way out of a garments shop on Lindsay Street along with her son.

Meanwhile, a hawker at Hatibagan in north Kolkata, Amit Saha was quoted by the report as saying, "Do you know how we survived all these months? At least customers have been coming in the past two weeks."

The scene was no different in suburban markets of Sodpur, Dumdum, Garia and Sonarpur.

"It is not possible to enforce social distancing in an ideal manner during the time of festivals. However, we are regulating entry and providing santisers to every customer," said Dulal Lahiri, owner of a saree shop in Sodpur.

The wave of people on the streets of the metropolis has triggered concern among health experts, who fear mass infection and a second wave of coronavirus .

"We can only hope people will avoid crowding and strictly follow COVID-19 protocols. We have to be aware of the situation," public health expert Kajal Krishna Banik said.

The COVID-19 toll in West Bengal pushed past the 6,000-mark on Sunday with 64 more fatalities, even as a record number of 3,983 fresh cases pushed the tally to 3,21,036, the health department said.

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