The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Washout fear looms over revelry

Siliguri, Sept. 22: As in the southern part of the state, the rain god in north Bengal is refusing to give centrestage to Devi Durga.

With only a week to go before the five-day annual celebrations presided over by the goddess, rain in the region is continuing unabated.

Officials of the meteorological department in Jalpaiguri said a depression is hovering over Jamshedpur in Jharkhand and very close to Gangetic Bengal.

“It is moving northwards and as a result rain and thundershowers are occurring in the north Bengal districts,” said T.K. Chakroborty, the director of the metereological department. “Given the current state of affairs, we feel that heavy to very heavy showers can occur in isolated places in the next 24 hours.”

The meteorologist said such changes in weather are natural, as the monsoon has already started to retreat from the Northeast. “This withdrawal of the monsoon is likely to continue till October 13. As the Durga Puja this year is in September-end, there is a high chance of rainfall on the puja days,” Chakroborty said.

The spate of rainfall, which seems destined to persist for few more days, has left traders of the region worried.

“First the drought, and now the rain have left us with few customers,” said Bimal Saha, a member of Cooch Behar Zilla Byabsayee Samiti.

His counterparts in Siliguri are an equally disappointed lot. “The market had just started to gain momentum, but the sudden and consistent rain has kept most of our customers at home,” said Arjun Gupta, secretary of Siliguri Retail Cloth Dealers’ Association. “We are still waiting for the buyers who come from rural areas and tea estates.”

Traders in other district echoed similar sentiments.

The rain that started last night also disappointed the customers, particularly government employees, who were hoping to cash in on the Mahalaya leave. “I had planned to go shopping with my family this afternoon, but it was not to be,” said Sandip Das, a government servant in Siliguri.

The black clouds seem to have also descended on puja organisers, clay-modellers and decorators.

“Many of the idols are melting away, while a few of them are yet to be painted, which we cannot do on cloudy days,” said Molin Pal, an idol-maker here. For the decorators, the situation is no different. “If the weather continues to be the same, it would be tough for most of us to finish the pandals by September 28, before the Pujas start,” a member of Decorators’ Association of North Bengal said.

Organisers are fearful that their theme pujas may fall flat. “We are erecting a replica of the Khajuraho temple this time,” said Dipti Sen, the secretary of Santibharati Parishad, one of the leading puja organisers of Malda. “But due to the rain, the decorators could hardly start the outdoor work.”

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