Pandals become no-entry zones

No visitors will be allowed inside Durga puja pandals across West Bengal, and the puja mandap will be treated as a “containment zone” this year, the Calcutta High Court ordered on Monday.

A Division Bench of Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Arijit Banerjee said only organisers of the puja committees can enter the pandals in numbers ranging from 15 to 25.

“No Entry” notices should be put up near the pandals this year, and an awareness drive should be taken up to inform people about the order, the Bench said.

Hearing a public interest litigation petition on the issue of Durga pujas being allowed in the State during the COVID-19 pandemic, the court observed that the police does not have enough resources to control the crowd if people descend on the streets.

“The Calcutta High Court said small pandals of 5 m and large pandals of 10 m should be declared no-entry zones. The distance will have to be measured from the place where the boundary of the pandal ends,” Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, advocate appearing for the petitioner, said.

The court also directed that the names of the puja organisers allowed inside the pandal be displayed outside the pandal, and this cannot be changed every day.

Court seeks report

The High Court expressed disappointment that the State government had not formulated a plan to implement the guidelines issued earlier. It asked the government to submit a report on the matter on November 5.

The order assumes significance as about 37,000 Durga pujas are being organised across the State, despite warnings from doctors that crowding during the festival can worsen the pandemic.

Over the past few days, the State has been recording a spike in cases. More than 60 deaths have been recorded every day.

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