The district administration of Cooch Behar and Durga Puja organisers have come up with a mascot called “Mohan”, which resembles the rare turtle with the same name found at a pond in Baneswar, to create awareness of the need for people to wear masks to keep the novel coronavirus at bay.
At different puja pandals across Cooch Behar, a Mohan can be seen, donning a mask and imparting a message “Amar Mask, Amar Vaccine” (My mask is my vaccine).
“We wanted to ensure that all those coming out of their homes during and after the festival wear masks in a proper manner. Consistent use of masks can considerably reduce the risk of Covid-19 infections. That is why we thought of using Mohan, as the rare turtle found at the Baneswar pond is called by residents here, as a mascot. The clubs have also responded to our call and displayed the mascots on their premises. We feel this initiative would help in disseminating awareness of the need to wear masks among people,” said an official of the district administration.
Locally known as Mohan, the turtles found in Shib Dighi, that is close to a Shiva temple of Baneswar, are of Nilssonia nigricans species, commonly known as black softshell turtles.
“These are indeed rare species as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classified them as ‘extinct in the wild.’ We believe the decision to present the species as the mascot will also impart awareness among people of the need for their conservation,” said Animesh Bose, a wildlife conservationist in Siliguri.
Ranadip Bose, a resident of Gosani Road in Dinhata who is also associated with Gosani Road Sarbojonin Durgotsav, said he had found many pandal hoppers taking out masks or buying ones after seeing the mascot.
“We have displayed the mascots at a number of spots near our puja and have seen people, particularly youngsters, taking out masks from their pockets and wearing the same after seeing the mascot,” said Bose.
There is an apprehension that Covid-19 cases will surge in the state if health safety protocols are not properly followed during the Durga Puja days.
In every district, the administration, in association with the health department, has drawn up plans to handle such a possible situation.
Rathindranath Saha, a painter based in Dinhata, said: “Residents of Cooch Behar have a different sentiment for the Mohans of Baneswar. We believe they will follow the message.”