The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pujas protest bribe raj
- guidelines for pandals

Puja organisers on Wednesday complained at an open forum that fire department officers and a section of Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) employees demand bribes to issue licences and permission. The organisers demanded “positive” steps by the police to put an end to the practice.

On Wednesday, police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty convened a meeting with the puja organisers at Lalbazar to “draft guidelines and clear misunderstandings.’’

Sources at the meeting told Metro that the organisers were vocal against the “unscrupulous” practice of the fire department and the CMC. Pointing out specific instances, the organisers, on condition of anonymity, said while the firemen demand bribes to issue licences, the CMC men demand money for putting up billboards and erecting stalls.

Later, deputy commissioner of police, headquarters, Shibaji Ghosh, said the police have directed the fire services department to set up a “single-window permission” facility. “We have ensured that the fire services department sets up a counter where it will collect fees and issue permission,’’ he said.

Ghosh said no new Pujas would be allowed this year. “We are issuing forms only to the existing organisers from September 2 to September 10. The last date of depositing the form is September 16. The police will give the final clearance on September 25,’’ he said. “The last date of immersion has been fixed on October 17,” he added.

Ghosh clarified that there are no restrictions on the inauguration of Pujas. “The organising committees are at liberty to inaugurate their Pujas even the day after Mahalaya. It is up to them,’’ he said.

The police had last year prevented many organisers from inaugurating their pandals before Panchami.

Ghosh announced that the organisers would, however, be permitted to set up billboards 50 metres away from major city intersections. “The billboards have to be 10 feet above the footpath,’’ he added.

Police said the organisers have also been informed about keeping pandal access routes free of hawkers. “We understand that the organisers recover a portion of their budget from the temporary stalls. So, we have asked them to allot a different area for the stall-owners ,’’ Ghosh said.

According to the police, the height of the idols should not exceed 17.6 feet to facilitate complete immersion. “The Circular Railway overhead wires are at that height and they have told us that it will not be possible for them to dismantle the wires this year,’’ Ghosh said.

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