West Bengal govt announces norms to observe during Durga Puja celebrations; masks, sanitisers compulsory at pandals

Kolkata: The West Bengal government on Monday issued a notification asking Durga Puja committees to follow COVID-19 safety protocols and set up open pandals where visitors cannot enter without masks.

The notification came up four days after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee listed safety guidelines along similar lines for the puja committees.

"Pandals shall have to be spacious and should be kept open from all sides. If in case it becomes essential to have closed ceiling, the sides will have to be kept open and if the sides have to be blocked, the ceiling has to be kept open," the notification signed by Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha said.

Entering a marquee without mask and hand sanitiser will not be allowed, the notification said.

"Organisers shall make adequate arrangements for distribution of masks in close vicinity of the pandal to the visitors who inadvertently come to the premises without wearing masks. Use and availability of hand sanitiser should similarly be made compulsory in the pandal premises," it said.

Rituals such as 'pushpanjali', 'sindoor khela' and distribution of 'prasad' should be organised in small groups with spaced out timings. People are encouraged to bring flowers from home for 'pushpanjali', the government said.

The government also formally notified that Rs 50,000 financial assistance would be provided to every puja committee while electricity would be available for the marquees at 50 percent discount, which were earlier announced by the chief minister.

Around 34,437 and 2,509 community Durga Pujas are organised under the jurisdiction of West Bengal Police and Kolkata Police respectively, she had said.

Cultural programmes in or near the puja pandal premises are not allowed, according to the notification.

To avoid crowding, arrangements should be made so that people can visit marquees from the day of Tritiya, three days prior to the start of five-day festival which begins on 23 October, it said.

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