While Durga Puja celebrations in the Millennium City is unique with lakhs thronging the pandals to revel in the spectacle, the elderly and persons with disabilities (PWDs) are a deprived lot due to the absolute lack of physical accessibility in the mandaps.
This year could be different though. Realising the difficulties and alienation faced by these sections, the Cuttack district administration has called upon the Puja Committees to make special arrangements to enable the elderly and physically challenged be a part of the festivities as equally as normal citizens.
The administration has impressed upon the committees to facilitate temporary ramps along with separate darshan arrangements for them.
It has also requested the committee heads to deploy volunteers specially for the assistance of elderly and PWDs, who would not only take them around and facilitate darshan but also see to it that they safely descend from the mandaps and make their way through the crowds.
“While there are specific norms on provisioning of accessibility to the elderly and PWDs, it is also a question providing them with equal rights. We are sensitising the puja committees on the issue and are sure of seeing positive developments. This year prominent puja mandaps would be the focus of interventions and the facility would be extended to all pandals from next year,” Collector Girish SN said.
Girish said, the major mandaps like Choudhury Bazaar, Alisha Bazaar, Sheikh Bazaar, Balu Bazaar, Chandni Chowk, Chauliaganj, Badambadi-Shankarpur, Ranihat, Mangalabag, Haripur-Dolamundai, Khan Nagar etc, could take the lead in setting an example. At least two volunteers at each pandal specifically for escorting the elderly and the PWDs all the time should be set aside, he said, adding the number could be raised when required. He would be holding discussions with the committees on this matter.
The State Women and Child Welfare Committee has also expressed concern over the alienation of this section of people.
Writing to district collectors across the State, Secretary WCD Arati Ahuja on Friday emphasised on designing pandals in such a manner that people with different needs can actively participate in the festivities.
“Even pregnant women and mothers with small children will benefit from such arrangements. They should also be allowed to take their vehicles close to the pandals”, Ahuja requested the collectors.