Kolkata, Sep 24 : Bringing much-awaited relief to scores of people, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday announced the guidelines for the upcoming Durga Puja in the state to be celebrated from October 22-26.
Banerjee met senior officials of the state government, the police and puja committee organisers from across the state at the Netaji Indoor Stadium here.
Keeping in mind the Covid-19 pandemic situation, Banerjee showered doles to puja organisers, saying the state government would give Rs 50,000 to each puja committee along with other free facilities this year. More than 2,500 Durga Pujas are organised only in the Kolkata Police area, excluding those organised in the housing complexes.
“We have decided to give Rs 50,000 to each puja committee along with other facilities like free fire-safety arrangement at every pandal (marquee). This year, the puja committees will not have to pay any tax to the local bodies like municipal corporation and panchayat bodies for organising Durga Puja. Also, 50 per cent of the total electricity charges will be waived,” the Chief Minister told the gathering.
Urging all the residents of the state to comply with the Covid-19 safety guidelines during the festival, Banerjee said that this year the celebrations would be different and people will have to be really cautious about physical distancing, though they would be allowed to go pandal-hopping throughout the night.
“We need to be really careful while celebrating the festival. I request all the organisers to make their pandals as much open as possible with separate entry and exit points. Ideally, three sides should be open to allow enough cross-ventilation. Masks and sanitisers are compulsory in the pandals,” Banerjee said, as she urged all the organisers to make the inaugural ceremonies less glamorous.
The Chief Minister mentioned that the puja guidelines were framed after taking into account the suggestions made by the state’s global expert committee.
“We must ensure that there is no spike in the number of Covid cases after the festive season. I know there will be problems. We have already lost many lives, though the discharge rate in our state is now 87 per cent.
“Volunteers will have to give sanitisers to all the devotees when they visit the pandals. They will also have to give masks to those not wearing them,” she said, adding that public announcements at big puja pandals are must this year.
There will be restrictions on ‘anjali’, playing with vermilion (‘sindoor khela’) and distribution of ‘prasad’.
“The puja committees will have to organise these rituals by involving more volunteers and by maintaining physical distancing. They can also demarcate positions for pandal-hoppers to stand in a queue while entering the pandal, so that there is sufficient gap between two devotees,” Banerjee said, as she asked the organisers not to hold any cultural programme this year.
She said that permission to organise Durga Puja would be given online.
The Chief Minister also announced one-time aid of Rs 2,000 for 81,000 hawkers so that they can buy new clothes for their families.
“I have also decided to increase the monthly salary of Asha workers, green police and all civic volunteers by Rs 1,000 from October,” Banerjee said.