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Regular-article-logo Sunday, 26 May 2024

Push to get free Covid tests done for puja workers in New Town

‘Please get your pandal construction workers, dhakis and priests tested so that they don’t end up infecting others’

Sudeshna Banerjee, Brinda Sarkar Published 02.10.20, 06:08 AM
Officers from the local police stations address puja organisers in New Town and Salt Lake respectively.

Officers from the local police stations address puja organisers in New Town and Salt Lake respectively. Pictures by Sudeshna Banerjee and Brinda Sarkar

The Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation has advised Durga puja organising committees in New Town to get their puja-related personnel tested for Covid-19 before allowing them to join work.

“Please get your pandal construction workers, dhakis and priests tested so that they don’t end up infecting others,” said a Hidco representative, attending a pre-puja meeting. “The test is being done free of cost at the Utility Building, opposite Route 260 bus stand, from 10am to 1.30pm daily except Sunday,” he informed.

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The message was delivered to organisers at a meeting at Rabindra Tirtha organised by the New Town police station for pujas in areas under the three police stations in New Town on September 24.

It was one of the meetings that community puja organisers in Salt Lake and New Town were called to on the day in the respective townships. They watched the chief minister’s address to puja organisers across the state being telecast live on the big screen from Netaji Indoor Stadium and were then given localised briefings by police and other officials. “For this meeting, representatives of the 117 officially permitted pujas under our three police stations had been called,” a police officer said at the New Town event. The 180-seater Rabindra Tirtha was packed to capacity.

Rapid antigen tests are being done free of cost by NKDA at Street no. 754, Action Area III Monday to Saturday 10.30am to 1.30pm

Rapid antigen tests are being done free of cost by NKDA at Street no. 754, Action Area III Monday to Saturday 10.30am to 1.30pm

The suggestion for Covid-19 tests was welcomed by the audience but also raised questions. “Our priest comes on Sashthi morning. So does our dhaki. What if either of them tests positive? Where will we get a substitute at the eleventh hour?” Sharmistha Bhattacharya of Aponjon housing estate in Dhalipara, Rajarhat, asked on the microphone. It was suggested that both priest and drummer be called a day in advance this year.

Many organisers requested the West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company official present on stage to bring down the minimum load capacity for individual pujas. “Our budget will be one-third this year. Please reduce your minimum security deposit. Otherwise, a lumpsum amount stays stuck with you,” urged a representative of Rupashree housing complex. “You apply. We will consider your request if the load is less,” the official said. A representative from Moonbeam Housing Complex wondered if permission needed to be taken for using lights from the complex’s own electric meter. “Our lighting will be minimal this year,” he argued. “You need to take a separate connection. It will not do to pull the connection from the housing mains,” the power utility engineer said. Another electricity-related query came about refunds. “We are supposed to get a refund on last year’s payment,” said a representative of Sankalpa 4, wondering how the refund could be claimed. “You need to apply at our office located next to Axis Mall,” said the official.

Inspector in charge of New Town police station Atanu Ghosal pointed out that a thana-level meeting would be held closer to the Pujas where specific problems would be sorted out.

A full house Rabindra Tirtha where the New Town meeting was held.

A full house Rabindra Tirtha where the New Town meeting was held.

Salt Lake in focus

At a similar event at Dishari Bhavan in Salt Lake, Somdeb Bandyopadhyay, inspector in charge, Bidhannagar north police station, addressed organisers of pujas in his jurisdiction.

“Last year, a puja committee had erected an advertisement gate on the lane from the First Avenue to their pandal. This is illegal and dangerous and we had to go pull it down in the middle of celebrations. Such incidents leave a bad taste in the mouth and even we don’t want to ruin the festive mood. So please keep these norms in mind and do not install gates,” he said.

The police enquired if 2020 happened to be a jubilee year for any puja in the sector and indeed, Shyama Das of Vidyasagar Niketan said it would be their 50th. “We must be the oldest puja of Salt Lake and we had plans to commemorate the milestone but with the pandemic going strong, we have to play it down. We shall follow all guidelines set by the government and not try to attract too much footfall.”

Bandyopadhyay enquired about the crowd-puller that AE Part 1 has emerged as in recent years. The organisers assured him that despite opting for a theme this year, their scale would be low. “Just ensure your exit gate is double the width of the entry gate,” said Bandyopadhyay. His instruction to Labony Estate was to open — not all but — only two gates to visitors.

“Every block must keep making announcements about wearing masks. Your electric wiring system must be fool proof too. Any short cuts will lead to accidents,” said Bandyopadhyay.

Much time went in repeating the names of blocks as those like EC and AC sounded similar from behind masks.

Deputy commissioner K.U. Ganpat addressed the residents too. “Every year, meetings are held at the thana level but confusion arises when committees get contradictory or unverified information from other sources too. Moreover, this year fake news had spread on social media about the Pujas being cancelled altogether. But once the chief minister announces the regulations once and for all today, there will be clarity,” he said.

At both meetings, the audience broke into applause when the chief minister announced an assistance of Rs 50,000 to all pujas.

“We expect no sponsorship or souvenir ads this year so this amount will help us immensely,” said Aloke Datta of Shyamali Abasan. “We’re really feeling like the chief minister is by our side in these times of trouble.”

Bandyopadhyay said that another pre-puja meeting would be held in presence of fire brigade and power utility officials. To this Arunabha Hazra of CD Block wondered if it would be wiser to hold it over Zoom. “Unfortunately, puja organsiers from the added areas are not familiar with the app so we shall have to hold it in person,” the officer explained.

He reminded everyone about a WhatsApp group police had started with puja organisers last year. “It would be revived this season. Do inform us about any changes in committees,” he said, “and also in case you are shifting the venue of your puja from the park to the community hall or changing your immersion ghat.”

saltlake@abpmail.com

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