KOLKATA: Several big-budget Durga Puja committees in West Bengal on Tuesday started putting up barricades at a distance of 10-metre from the marquee entrance, a day after the Calcutta High Court declared puja pandals as 'no entry zones'.
Officials of Kolkata Police went around different puja pandals in the city and chose the barricade spot in consultation with puja committee organisers.
However, the College Square Puja Committee is still holding discussions with police officials about where to put up the barrier maintaining their idol platform is around 30 metre away from the visitor who are not allowed to stand for a while and asked to move towards exit by the volunteers and police, Puja committee office-bearer Bikas Majumder told PTI.
"We had maintained all COVID-19 safety protocols stipulated by the government. Even the HC's order for keeping public 10 feet away can be complied with in our present arrangement. However, since our pandal is located next to the waterbody and people enter from one side and exit by another, stopping the visitor at one end is not feasible as all of them will not be able to see the idol," he said.
He said "we are explaining to the police officers that the idol and core area of the pandal will be much more than the 10 metre distance. They have some suggestions. Let's see if there is a way out."
"We want the people to see our puja and pandal decoration. We have also started video streaming different moments of the puja for those who won't be able to come."
Santoshpur Lake Pally, one of the award winning pujas, have put up a barrier 10 metre away from the pandal after talks with local police and re-opened the marquee for viewers with the new arrangement from Tuesday.
"However, we are waiting for the outcome of the petition filed at high court by our organization Forum For Durgotsab of 400 puja committees.
The present arrangement will hinder the usual flow of revellers to the pandal," secretary of the puja committee Somnath Das said.
"We are not asking anyone to come to our pandal. People can see our deity from the adjacent road or through virtual media as well. However if someone enters into our pandal, stopping him/her at a spot 10 metre from main pandal and forcing to return the same route will cause more gathering at a spot. We are following the judiciary order as being asked but we hope our views will be heard," Das said.
The organisers of FD Block Puja committee in Salt Lake said all the steps have been taken conforming to the order of court and earlier covid guidelines of the government.
"Barricades have been erected 10 metre away from the pandal and those standing near the barricade will be asked to stand on the marked circles on the ground," Banibrata Banerjee, puja committee member said.
Suruchi Sangha, another popular puja in the city, has put up fencing before the pandal.
"We will go by the order of the high court and the administration," a spokesman said.
Ashok Ojha of Md Ali Park Durga puja, another popular puja in the city said, "we have put up a barricade 10 metre away from the open air pandal. People can see the deity from that distance. We know this can deprive the devotees to see the goddess from close. But we have to follow the court order in the interest of everyone".
The organisers of Kumartuli Sarbojonin allowed pandal hoppers from a distance of 10 metre from the pandal from Tuesday, the Choturthi evening after inspection of Kolkata Police officials.
"There were paintings and decorations inside the pandal which cannot be seen from outside anymore. Only one side of the pandal and the idol can be seen. But we have to follow the court order," a spokesman said.
Revellers were also unable to see the deity at popular Netaji Colony Lowland Sarbojonin in Baranagar, North 24 Parganas district, which was kept inside the replica of a thatched hut.
"As directed by the police we put up a no entry board outside the pandal. Visitors can only have fleeting glimpses of the deity from a distance," puja committee livewire Pradip Narayan Bose said.
"We can at least enjoy the festivities. But the joy of watching the idol from inside is missing. I will have to settle for video streaming," Debolina Chakraborty, who was pandal hopping along with friends, said outside Kumartuli.
The Coochbehar New Town puja committee has decided to take the goddess to doorsteps of the town and nearby villages in a tableau.
"We had erected a small pandal. But after the HC order, we have shifted that pandal on the top of a big truck. It will move from one locality to another," a puja committee spokesman said.