Kolkata: Durga puja is a month away but preparations have already begun although differently. Although the annual extravaganza in West Bengal will be at a much lower scale, the organisers are having to work like every year. This time, they to chalk out safety plans to avoid further spread of COVID-19.
At some pandals such as the one set up by Samajsebi Sangha in south Kolkata, people will be able to catch a glimpse of the deity from a distance without having to alight from their vehicles. They are changing their open-air pandal’s direction towards Southern Avenue, reported Hindustan Times quoting PTI.
“There will be a canopy on top to guard the 10-foot-high deity, but all three sides of the pandal will remain open. Medical personnel will be stationed next to the marquee with emergency kit and equipment. Volunteers won’t allow people to crowd at the pandal entrance,” secretary of the puja association, Arijit Moitra was quoted as saying by PTI.
“This year, things ought to be different… We have curtailed our budget from Rs 60 lakh to Rs 15 lakh. The amount saved will be distributed among 75 underprivileged families from Sunderbans,” he added in the report.
There will be no pomp and show at Md Ali Park. “Lights will be fewer, and the pandal smaller. The height of the deity would not exceed eight feet,” Ashok Ojha, the joint secretary of the puja committee, told PTI.
At Bhawanipore 75 Pally, labourers were made to undergo the COVID-19 test before starting work. “We will have a sanitiser tunnel and proper measures in place to ensure revellers maintain physical distance. The road leading to the pandal won’t have barricades on its two sides,” Subir Das, an office-bearer of the committee was quoted as saying by PTI.
With most puja committees slashing their budgets, business is down at Kumartuli, a traditional potters’ quarter in north Kolkata. Most artisans claim to have received 30 per cent fewer bookings compared to last year.
“Almost all top puja organisers have placed orders for eight- or 10-foot-tall idols, at least 5 feet less than what has usually been the norm for them. This is the new normal. We have to adapt to the changing circumstances,” he added.