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True Spirit of safety steps

Safety has acquired an entirely new meaning this Durga puja, as the dance of the pandemic continues unabated
The Thakurpukur State Bank Park Sarbojanin idol that was adjudged the Model Puja in 2019

Sudeshna Banerjee   |   Calcutta   |   Published 18.10.20, 02:01 AM

Is every visitor wearing a mask? Has sanitiser been sprayed in all hands? Is the queue socially distanced? Is the pandal well-ventilated? Come Tritiya and these are some of the questions that need to be on the minds of every pandal volunteer.

Safety has acquired an entirely new meaning this Durga puja, as the dance of the pandemic continues unabated. Therefore, in its 18th edition, the True Spirit Puja movement, which is all about making our greatest festival safe, happy and meaningful, has gained a whole new significance and momentum.


Covid-19 safety compliance measures have been added to the parameters of judgment in CESC The Telegraph True Spirit (TSP) Puja 2020, in association with David & Goliath, with Friends 91.9FM as radio partner and ABP Ananda as television news partner. 

Social commitment of the puja organisers also acquires added import in the light of the disruptions brought upon by the virus as also the trail of devastation and distress left behind by the cyclone Amphan.

The older parameters remain, like visitor comfort – by providing drinking water, toilet facilities, first aid and help desk – fire and electricity safety measures, traffic management, waste disposal, eco-friendliness and display of TSP signage.

“This year is the 18th year of collaboration between The Telegraph and CESC. This year is also the year of the pandemic. Hence both the institutions thought it wise to adopt online screening of the pandals so that safety prevails. And that is at the heart of True Spirit Puja this year,” said Joyneel Mukherjee, executive director, corporate communications, CESC.

Indeed, the entire process has shifted online—from application to judgment. Over 300 pujas from across Calcutta and Howrah had applied on the newly created website and after screening, close to 250 have come on board.

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.

Said former Mrs Universe Richa Sharma, who is the brand ambassador of David & Goliath and will be part of the final day judges' panel: “This year, Durga Puja should not only be celebrated with basic safety measures -- like fire protection, security of assets, etc. – but there should also be escalated assurance of salvation by ensuring appropriate distance among the guests visiting the pandal, temperature check at the entrance and repeated sanitisation. Entry should only be permitted if guests are wearing their masks, that too in limited numbers at a time. Enjoying Puja is important but Covid-19 should not be taken lightly.”

The pujas adjudged to be in the top three in each of the four zones will be in contention for the top prizes. The Model Puja and the three Five Star pujas will be declared on Sashthi and be handed the prizes by the evening. The others making it to the honours list will receive their prizes on Saptami, allowing them to display the trophy and the certificate before visitors on the remaining Puja days.

But it would be no time to put their feet up. For in no other year has it been so important for each and every puja organiser to stay vigilant and true to the TSP pledge till the last visitor has left the pandal and the idol has been immersed. This year, the penalty for not doing so will be far more serious than docking of points.

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