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A new Puja chapter: 100 bids to fit the true spirit bill

“I am from a small puja committee in Kalighat. We don’t spend huge amounts of money on our puja, which happens in the middle of a slum. What we try to do is bring everyone in the community together and try to buy clothes for as many kids as we can.”

There are many pujas which grab all the attention, awards and applause every year. Saibal Bose’s Kalighat Milan Committee puja has not been one of them. Not till now, when it can compete on a playing field that counts.

A movement has started from Puja 2003: The CESC The Telegraph True Spirit Puja. This is not a competition awarding the biggest and the best. This is a recognition of responsible celebration in keeping with the essence of Durga Puja.

Around 100 committees from across the city attended the unveiling of the concept — supported by People United for Better Living in Calcutta (Public) and Red FM — at Rotary Sadan on Tuesday evening, registering their pujas for the preliminaries. The selected participants will be rated on certain parameters by an assessment panel from Shasthi onwards. Criteria here include safety, civic consciousness and social commitment, from crowd management to waste disposal and restoration to community development projects.

No winner, in the conventional sense, will be honoured. A True Spirit Model Puja will be announced, as well as two, three, four and five-star Pujas. The panel will identify those committees who have displayed promise, and will be invited to enrol next year. There will be no prize either. The committees will be requested to submit plans for social projects. Subject to assessment, two-star pujas will be eligible for a grant of up to Rs 2,500, to go towards a social project of their choice. Those in the three-star category can receive up to Rs 10,000, those in the four-star bracket up to Rs 15,000, and in the five-star segment, up to Rs 25,000. The True Spirit Puja is eligible for up to Rs 50,000 to go towards a special project.

There are no ‘absolutes’ in this selection. Being the first year, a few criteria have been identified as musts for selection: first aid and fire prevention provisions, whether legitimate electricity connections have been secured and whether committees have employed force in the collection of subscriptions figure on this list. Drinking water, availability of toilets and social service projects have also been earmarked as important.

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