The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mega pujas cry foul

Less than a week before a police team comes knocking on the doors of puja organisers to discuss the new format of festivity this October ' courtesy a high court directive ' the lines of discord have been clearly drawn.

Almost all mega-budget pujas have labelled the new Durga puja code 'unacceptable', but police claim the organisers must toe the court line or face the consequences.

Among a host of guidelines presented by police in court, Puja 2005 will allow for no encroachment of 'entire roads' by pandals. Every pandal should leave at least 50 ft of open space on two sides and 12 ft should be left free to facilitate traffic movement.

No stalls will be allowed on footpaths/carriageways without police permission. Also, puja organisers should desist from digging or damaging trees, parks, roads, footpaths and pedestrian barriers.

And within 10 days of Bijoya Dashami, the affected roads should be restored to motorable condition.

Keen to curb the festive chaos, commissioner of police Prasun Mukherjee has called for a 'coordination meeting' with various public utility services on Friday, with a little more than a month to go for Mahalaya.

'This is very confusing. If people accept certain deviations for those few days, I find no reason why the police or civic bodies should be concerned. If the new regulations have to be implemented, we'll have to stop celebrating the Pujas. This is no joke. It involves the sentiments of lakhs of people,' said Subrata Mukherjee, former mayor and a chief patron of the traffic-stopping Ekdalia Evergreen Club puja.

Some 2,500 major and medium-sized pujas are organised across the city every year and draw around four lakh visitors every day, from Sashthi to Dashami.

This apart, there are some 600-plus smaller para and community pujas.

'Let us look at things objectively,' says Satyen Chakrabarty, secretary of the Singhi Park puja, off Gariahat.

'The directive says banners are not allowed within 50 feet of road crossings. But if you happen to visit the Gariahat intersection these days, you'll spot billboards right at the crossing' All regulations seem to spring up for the Pujas alone,' he reasons.

Chakrabarty, incidentally, from the same locality as Tapan Kumar Mitra, the resident of Dover Lane who had lodged a PIL for the framing of pandal rules in January.

A division bench of Justice V.S. Sirpurkar and Justice A.K. Ganguly had passed an order on July 22, upholding the guidelines framed by the Calcutta Police and the Calcutta Municipal Corporation.

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