With society turning around after two years of Covid-induced restrictions and Durga Puja making a triumphant statement riding on the Unesco recognition, a movement that began in 2003 to make the autumnal festival safe, happy, meaningful and devoid of negativity, completes two decades.
Over 400 pujas had applied to be part of the judging process of CESC The Telegraph True Spirit Puja 2022, powered by IIHM, in association with Chemtex.
Of them, close to 300 were shortlisted for preliminary rounds of judging which, like the last two years, took place online. The judges quizzed the organisers over parameters integral to the award, including traffic and crowd management, fire and electricity safety, first aid, eco-friendliness, waste management, toilet and drinking water provisions, facilities for senior citizens and the physically challenged and Covid-safety measures.
At Beleghata 33 Palli, judges were impressed by the fire safety arrangements that included sprinklers and fire balls. They had also installed two emergency lights to keep the pandal illuminated for the few seconds it would take for the generator to start in case of a power cut.
At Thakurpukur State Bank Park, two emergency exits had been kept over and above the normal exit. The entire pandal, including the emergency exits, was accessible by wheelchair.
Dengue is on puja organisers’ mind. Santoshpur Lake Pally had refrained from keeping water in buckets as part of its fire safety kit and kept only sand.
“We do not want larvae to breed in this stagnant water,” said an organiser. Participation in TSP is not about winning. It is more about learning to be a better organised puja. At Young Men’s Sporting Association, near Amherst Street, the committee members who have taken over the reins of the 90-year-old puja from GenEx, were given a lesson in electric meter box installation by CESC officials on the judges’ panel.
“Your box is on the pavement, open to the elements and can be easily accessed by pedestrians, which can cause accidents,” a judge pointed out. The organisers promised to do the needful. After another round of preliminary judging on Panchami morning, eight finalists will be announced and celebrity judges will visit them physically the same night to decide which will be crowned the True Spirit Model Puja for the year.