The virus was an unknown adversary for Puja organisers in 2020. A year later, it is a familiar foe but still threatening.
Against such a backdrop, Pujas that tick all the Covid safety boxes will vie for the honours at a campaign that puts social commitment above pomp and splendour.
Masks, sanitisers, social distancing and other Covid parameters will be at the heart of CESC The Telegraph True Spirit (TSP) Puja 2021, powered by Goodricke Tea in association with David & Goliath and Young Indians, with Friends 91.9FM as radio partner and Siti Cinema as television partner.
The True Spirit campaign turns 19 this year.
“Last year, the pandemic came like a bolt from the blue for Puja organisers. But a year down the line, they have got ample time to gear up,” said an organiser.
Covid compliance was included in the parameters of judgement for the competi-tion last year. The older criteria like providing drinking water, eco-friendliness, display of TSP signage etc— remain.
On Chaturthi and Panchami, the first-round visits of judges will take place virtually, followed by the final round on Sashthi morning when organisers of the short-listed pujas will give the judges a virtual walk-through of their preparedness in receiving visitors to the pandal. Like last year, the entire process will be virtual. Hundreds of pujas from across Calcutta and Howrah had applied on the newly created website truespiri-tpuja.com and after screening, close to 300 have come on board, organisers said.
“This collaboration between The Telegraph and CESC is almost two decades old. Covid compliance continues to be at the heart of True Spirit Puja. More so because the organisers have had enough time to adapt to the new normal,” said Joyneel Mukherjee, executive director, corporate communications, RPSG group that owns CESC.
The Model Puja, the three Five Star pujas and others making it to the honours list will be named on Sashthi, the organisers said.
“Norms like fire safety, drinking water facility and environment friendliness are already ingrained in the organisers. But I will be looking forward to how they adapt to Covid safety norms. Let everyone be a part of the festive celebrations but only by adhering to all the Covid norms,” said Richa Sharma, former Mrs Universe and actor.
“The True Spirit Puja campaign has taught us to place equal, if not more, emphasis on social commitment than the size of the pandal or the idol. We will try our best to uphold that tradition in the backdrop of a pandemic,” said Saswata Basu of Hatibagan Sarbojonin Durgotsav Committee.