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Durga Puja 2022

After COVID ‘hiatus’, puja committees gear up to tackle bumper crowd

More security guards, no clicks inside pandals are more plans in place

Bishwabijoy Mitra | Published 27.09.22, 08:32 PM
Visitors to the Sreebhumi puja pandal (right) in Lake Town last year

Visitors to the Sreebhumi puja pandal (right) in Lake Town last year

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Two years of pandemic break later, Durga Puja revellers are simply raring to go. Many pandals have been thrown open as early as Mahalaya and people are making the most of it. Expecting a crowd swell like never before because of revenge pandal-hopping and the Unesco heritage tag for Durga Puja, puja organisers, too, are gearing up with ways to control the sea of people.

More security guards

Almost all puja organisers have hired security guards. In the last two years, the number of (hired) guards was not more than four to five per pandal. “Even before the pandemic, we had hired six to eight guards. But this year, with the kind of crowd we are expecting, the number has reached three to five times of what we hired in the pre-pandemic era,” said Abhishek Bhattacharjee from Behala Nutan Sangha. The club is set to showcase its 25-ft idol made by artist Sanatan Dinda.

Similarly, 66 Pally will hire four times more guards from security agencies. “The Puja budget is likely to increase, but for proper crowd management, we will have to get more guards. Besides, there are three important pujas in the locality and we follow a specific crowd management system laid out by the police. We can’t take chances and have to hire accordingly,” said Pradyumna Mukherjee, a committee member.

Special gate for foreigners

Till last year, most mega pujas had three separate gates for general public, VIPs and for the specially abled. From this year, they are adding an extra gate for foreign tourists. “People expecting to use this facility will have to display their passport or any other related document. We are expecting a number of foreign tourists after the Unesco’s ICH tag and we do not expect them to stand in the queue for hours to enter the pandal,” said Bhattacharjee.  

Stricter crowd management

Kolkata Police, on the other hand, is planning a stricter crowd management system. According to a senior officer of Kolkata Police, there are broadly two ways of crowd control in pandals — the rationing system and inflow system. In the first system, visitors are kept in a queue outside the pandal and only a certain number (say 10 to 20) of visitors are allowed to enter the pandal in one go. Once the first batch exits, the next batch is allowed in. For the inflow system, the entire queue of visitors keeps moving constantly. They enter from one gate and exit from another without stopping at any point.

“Most of the puja committees have been advised to follow the inflow system. In the case of the rationing system, the authorities usually do not have control over the time spent by the people inside the pandal, causing long queues and congestion,” said the officer.

No selfie, photographs

Clicking photographs and selfies inside the pandal will be a big no-no this time. In the inflow crowd management system, where no one is allowed to stop in between, clicking photos can disrupt the flow. “People would simply stop for photos and selfies, while the rest of the queue would wait outside. There will be ‘no photography’ signboards and constant announcements,” said Sujata Gupta, treasurer of the Babubagan Sarbojanin Puja. To make up for that, several pujas are creating special selfie zones outside the pandal or at a location where there won’t be congestion.  

Last updated on 27.09.22, 08:35 PM
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