Covid curbs, lack of funding loom over Durga Puja celebrations in Delhi


New Delhi, Oct 14 : With the immersion of Durga idols on Friday, devotees in the national capital will bid adieu to the Hindu deity until next year. While puja committee members and devotees are happy with the resumption of the festival after a gap of one year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, they all faced similar issues such as budget cuts and crowd management following the Covid ptorocols, among others. "This time, only the committee members were allowed to visit the pandal. We tried to keep the number of visitors as low as possible. We also installed cameras to keep a check on the number of people gathering at a given time. We ensured that the people entering the premises wore masks, while sanitiser was made available 24x7," Bhabatosh Pal, who has been a member of the Mayur Vihar Phase III puja committee for the last 15 years, told IANS. While there was no dampening of spirit as far as the devotees were concerned, there was an obvious sense of caution among the people owing to the pandemic, he added. Health experts have been cautioning the people with regard to the ongoing festival season, as large social gatherings may again lead to a surge in the number of Covid cases. Therefore, the puja committees took all kinds of measures to ensure that all the activities took place safely. Vibha Ranna of Mayur Vihar Phase 1 puja committee told IANS that to keep a check on crowding, they allowed devotees in a lot of 15, ensuring that there is a distance of almost four feet between them. "I am almost 50 years old and I have spent all my life in Delhi. I haven't witnessed any festival season like this one. Last year, we performed only 'Kalash Puja', which is a symbolic puja of goddess Durga. This year we have an idol, though it's much smaller than our usual one. We did not allow full access to people and there were no distribution of 'langar'. Even the 'prasads' were given in packets," Shorbashish Bhattacharya, an active member of the Co-operative Ground puja committee in Chittaranjan Park, told IANS. All these three spots used to have 10-20 feet high idols of Durga, but adhering to Delhi government's notice, they were limited to 4-5 feet this year. "Talking about budget, it has been slashed from Rs 35 lakh to Rs 6-7 lakh due to lack of funds," Bhabatosh Pal said. On Wednesday, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) prohibited immersion of Durga idols in the city's water bodies, including Yamuna, to prevent water pollution. "We have already taken care of that. We will use a tanker to immerse the idol," Pal said. /IANS


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