The West Bengal government on Monday issued an 11-point guideline for organisers of Durga Puja this year, which is being held amid the COVID-19 pandemic. A number of restrictions and guidelines have been framed in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The police authorities have asked the committees to follow the guidelines.

Online permission: A single window online portal will be introduced from October 2 through which puja committees can seek permission from Kolkata Police, CESC, Kolkata Municipal Corporation and the state fire services.

Open pandals: All puja committees will have to keep their pandals open, to allow enough ventilation. There must be separate gates for visitors entering and leaving the pandals as well as enough space for visitors as they walk within the pandal premises.

Mask and sanitizer: Organisers must ensure that all visitors are wearing masks. However, they can also take the initiative of distributing masks among visitors. Masks will also be available at the nearest police help desks close to pandals. Organisers have to keep sanitisiers to be given to visitors as they enter the pandals.

No crowding: Crowding won’t be allowed inside pandals under any circumstances. All protocols for physical distancing must be maintained. To adhere to this, flowers for anjali must be carried to the pandals by individuals and organisers cannot distribute them. There must be a microphone placed before the priest so that individuals don’t crowd around him to listen to the mantra. Also, anjali cannot be held in large groups – both anjali and sindur khela must be done in small groups.

No cultural event: This year, no cultural event will be allowed during puja in order to prevent crowding.

No Puja carnival: The Puja carnival that has become a regular feature along Strand Road in Kolkata has been cancelled this year in view of COVID-19. Puja committees cannot allow mela or fair around the pandals either.

Pandals can open from Tritiya: The state government has allowed the organisers to keep the pandals open from Tritiya to give people two additional days for the darshan. This can prevent crowding by giving people extra days.

Competition and judging: Judges have to complete touring the pandals between 10 am and 3 pm. Two vehicles may be allowed for judges. The government has suggested virtual touring for judges if possible. Even the state government will give awards to best pujas on the basis of virtual touring by judges.

Focus on social media: The state government has appealed to the committees to lay stress on reaching out to people through social media to prevent people from visiting pandals physically. They have been asked for organise participation and awareness on this through social media.

Simple inauguration and immersion: The government has also appealed to the puja committees to make the puja inauguration and immersion a simple affair, and appealed to keep it less elaborate, avoid crowding and spending.

[Image representational]

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