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Beyond the glitter, the crowning glory
Safety and security, traffic management and help at hand, cleanliness and camaraderie… CESC The Telegraph True Spirit Puja was an effort not to be blinded by the glitz, but to look beyond; to applaud sensitivity, not sensationalism. A closer look at the leaders
Picture Pabitra Das
Picture by Aranya Sen

A novel CESC-The Telegraph endeavour — supported by PUBLIC and helped by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), the fire services department, the pollution control board and student representatives of The Telegraph in Schools — sought to shift the spotlight away from the big and the bright and, instead, focus on festive feel and community care.

After long hours of intense scrutiny, some efforts were cheered louder than the others. Topping the ladder for marks with a mission was Shibmandir Sarbojanin Durgotsav Committee, on Lake Temple Road. What won the day for the puja near Menoka cinema was the sense of community involvement and integration, evident from the smallest effort (appointing local volunteers to first urge pandal-hoppers not to litter, and if their pleas go unheard, to clean the path to piety themselves every two hours), to the greater good (running a school and a medical camp for the under-privileged).

“We are very proud to have been picked, as it is a recognition of our effort to follow all the puja norms laid down by the authorities,” said an organiser of Shibmandir, after it was crowned Model Puja 2003, making it eligible for funding up to Rs 50,000 for a specific community development project in its area.

Next in line for the star trek — from five to two — was Ajeya Sanghati, on Haridevpur’s Mahatma Gandhi Road. Community participation was just one of the plus points at this south Calcutta puja . Ajeya Sanghati, which runs social service projects through the year, won a 5-star rating also for its use of bio-degradable material, use of non-toxic paints, and a comprehensive health plan — ambulance, mini medical centre, insurance for pandal and public…

With a 5-star in its puja kitty, Ajeya proposes to start a unit to link local residents in distress with specialist medical facilities, which could well be supported by a True Spirit grant of up to Rs 25,000.

That’s exactly the sum the Lake Town Adibashibrinda Durga Puja Committee can also claim. This puja was modelled after Orissa’s pata chitra, featuring sand sculptures, with the Devi fashioned after a Santhali Jagannath . But it was the exemplary traffic management the organisers demonstrated that struck a chord with the True Spirit Puja assessment panel. Located on a busy road, they managed to keep both vehicles and pedestrians flowing. Fire-fighting precautions, access for senior citizens and waste disposal measures were also in place, ensuring a place on the 5-star podium.

“This is just the beginning in an effort to identify ‘clean’ pujas with a social commitment and hold them up as examples for others to follow,” concluded the panel of judges on Mahashtami.

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