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Call for Durga Puja discipline

Group urges caution to prevent Covid spike
People shop at a market for upcoming Durga Puja festival, in Calcutta, Tuesday, September 29, 2020.

Subhajoy Roy   |   Calcutta   |   Published 01.10.20, 03:17 AM

The Covid Care Network, an organisation of health officials, doctors and those who have recovered from the coronavirus disease, has appealed to the people to avoid crowds during and before the Puja to avert a spurt in Covid-19 cases after the festivity.

The network urged the Puja committees to involve as few hands in meetings and other organisational work as possible and ensure that people do not sit inside pandals and chat.

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Visitors as well as residents of the respective neighbourhoods must be encouraged to stay inside pandals for as short a duration as possible, members of the network said at a news conference on Wednesday. 

The organisers should compete about hosting the most disciplined Puja than the most decorated one, said Abhijit Chowdhury, a public health specialist and the mentor of Covid Care Network. He advised people to suspend pandal-hopping for this year.

Chowdhury also said the government had set some rules and people should follow them but he wanted individuals to go over and above the government’s rules and avoid crowds. 

“The government will not be able to aggressively enforce the guidelines that it has issued. It cannot do so to people who are out enjoying the biggest festival of the year. But we as a social organisation have to take the responsibility to tell the people to not crowd any place.

Do not drop your guard but drop your habit of pandal-hopping for this year at least,” said a member of the network. 

“It is our self-discipline and responsible behaviour that can help prevent a rise in Covid cases after Puja,” he said. 

Partha Sarathi Mukherjee, a member of the network said: “Puja committees should involve only those without whom the Puja cannot be organised…. On the Puja days, people should avoid wasting time inside pandals, chatting for hours.” 

Such measures should be in addition to wearing masks, washing hands with soap or disinfecting them with sani-tiser and maintaining a distance of at least 6ft from one another.

There is an apprehension among public health workers that the Covid-19 numbers may see a sharp jump if people forget about the pandemic and indulge in reckless celebrations. A large number of people are likely to step out during the Puja, the first such occasion where many people will be out together since the pandemic hit the state and the city in March. 

The words of caution come from a realisation that if people are not careful, the situation may become grim after the festival. “The joy during Durga Puja should not lead to trouble post-festival. That is why we are appealing to individuals and the community to behave responsibly,” Chowdhury said. 

The state government has issued several guidelines for the Puja. The organisers have been asked to erect open and spacious pandals, keep inaugurations and immersions low-key and ensure that not many people gather during rituals. The committees have also been asked not to organise cultural programmes.

This Puja should be enjoyed with bare minimum people’s presence and the unrestricted crowding can wait for some other year, Chowdhury said. “We have a tendency to overshoot the barriers put before us during festivals. On behalf of Covid Care Network, we are appealing to the people to be careful. Enjoy and celebrate but wear a mask, maintain physical distance and avoid crowding,” he said.

He also said the way some people had started immersing themselves in the pre-Puja celebrations,throwing caution to the winds, was worrying. “People are tired staying at home. So they have come out in hordes as things are opening slowly. But they will be making a grave mistake if they do not take the precautions. Enjoy, but do it responsibly and with caution,” he said. 

The network, in association with Khadims, will honour one Puja each in 10 districts of Bengal. 

“The Puja that is the most disciplined and takes all necessary measures advised for combatting Covid-19 will get Rs 25,000 as prize money. They will also get a trophy,” said Mukherjee.



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