KOLKATA: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s Durga Puja bonanza of Rs 50,000 for each puja organiser received a blow on Friday after the Calcutta High Court ruled against the move.
In his order, Justice Sanjib Banerjee said that public money cannot be spent on organizing entertainment events or festivals and it has to be spent for the public interest.
"The puja organisers will have to spend 75 per cent of the financial grant for procuring hand sanitizers and masks and distributing among the revelers visiting pandals. Rest 25 per cent will have to be for strengthening police and public relationship," he said while responding to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) challenging the state government’s Puja bonanza.
The court also directed the state government to ask the puja organisers to submit vouchers and receipts against their procurement of sanitizer and masks.
Earlier, Mamata announced Rs 50,000 financial grant for puja organisers. The sum was Rs 25,000 last year and Rs 10,000 in 2018 when the state government kicked off its bonanza for Durga Puja organisers.
Kolkata has more than 2,400 puja pandals whereas more than 34,000 pujas are organised in the rest of the state.
On Thursday, Justice Banerjee asked the state’s representative to explain why the financial help was given and whether a similar practice was followed in the festivals of other religions. The court also asked in its observation if there should be discrepancies in a democratic setup?
"Why the state government has issued financial grant to puja organisers? Is the same practice followed in other religious festivals including Eid?" asked justice Banerjee.
When the advocate general Kishore Dutta, who represented the state government, explained that the fund was granted to procure masks and sanitizers for the revelers, the judge asked him why the state government did not procure the items and supply it to the puja organisers directly, instead of giving them the financial assistance? "If the police have done everything during the ongoing crisis period, why puja organisers are being given money? Isn't it politically motivated?" he said in his observation.