The night curfew will remain suspended across Bengal from October 10 to 20 because of Durga Puja.
For the rest of October, the restrictions on the movement of people and vehicles between 11pm and 5am will be in force as usual, according to a government notification issued on Thursday.
“All outdoor activities, including movement of people and vehicles, shall continue to be strictly prohibited between 11pm and 5am except for health services, law and order, essential commodities including agricultural produce and other emergency services. However, in view of the ensuing festive period the said restriction relating to movement of people and vehicles between 11pm and 5am is relaxed during 10th October 2021 to 20th October 2021,” the notification says.
The notification does not clarify if restaurants, an essential part of Bengal’s festivities, will be allowed to operate beyond 10.30pm from October 10 to 20.
A government official said the night curfew was temporarily withdrawn so the festive crowd was evenly distributed throughout the day and night.
“If we ask people to go indoors at 11pm, that would only result in a lot of crowing before that. But if there is no restriction, we can hope the crowd will be evenly spread,” the official said.
The owners of restaurants, bars and nightclubs welcomed the decision but said they were awaiting a clarification on whether the relaxation would be applicable to them as well.
“This is a fantastic decision and will lift the business mood. But we need to know if restaurants, bars and nightclubs will come under its purview. We will seek a clarification from the government in this regard,” said Suresh Poddar, president of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Eastern India.
Kabir Azhar, director of Aminia Restaurants, said the chain’s flagship outlet in New Market usually remained open through the night on the Puja days. “We have served diners even at daybreak. If the removal of curbs is applicable to us, we can make up for a part of the losses incurred during the pandemic,” he said.
Last year, the high court had ordered that no visitors would be allowed inside pandals. The chief minister has announced that last year’s rules and protocol would be followed this year too.
The restrictions on entering Puja pandals last year had changed the concept of pandal-hopping, prompting many to drive through pandals without pulling over.
“This withdrawal of the night curfew on Durga Puja days is a great relief for us. It was difficult to imagine Durga Puja amid night curfew. Deserted roads and empty pandal compounds are a major security concern as well. But at the same time, the other aspect is about health and hygiene. We are confident that people are more conscious this time and would maintain all Covid norms while coming out of homes,” said Avijit Majumdar, general secretary of Singhi Park Durga Puja Committee.