FAQ: Can I Enter a Pujo Pandal in Bengal Amid COVID? Can Anybody?
Does anyone have access to the no-entry zone at all? Who decides which pandal is big and which is small?
Durga Puja celebrations in West Bengal this year will be different, owing to the pandemic. In order to curtail an alarming increase in cases of COVID-19, amid the festivities, the Calcutta High Court has passed an order, prohibiting entry of the public into the Durga Puja pandals.
However, on Wednesday, 21 October, the court partially lifted the restrictions and increased the number of people who can enter the pandal every day.
Who can enter? What are the restrictions? Here’s all you need to know.
So, can I go pandal-hopping this year?
Not exactly. This year, pandal-hopping means standing away from the pandal, at a permissible distance.
However, if your name is on the pre-determined, fixed list, which is to be put up outside pandals at 8 am, you will be allowed.
How many people are allowed exactly?
Hearing a review plea by the Forum For Durgotsav, the HC said that bigger pandals (over 300 square metres) will be allowed to list 60 people for entry. However, at a time only 45 people will be allowed inside.
In the smaller pandals, 15 people can be listed for entry, with only 10 allowed inside at a time.
Earlier, only 25 people were allowed in bigger pandals as a part of this list.
Does this mean pandals are still ‘no entry zones’?
Yes. While the number of people allowed inside pandals has now been increased, all pandals are still ‘no-entry zones’.
Can I at least stand close to the pandal and watch?
Not too close. The area covered by the pandals and the additional area around the pandals, extending 5 metres from the smaller pandals and 10 metres from the bigger pandals, will be barricaded as no-entry zones.
How can I have access to the no-entry zone at all?
Only the the named personnel, including the priest, who will be identified by the puja organisers in advance and whose names would be displayed (for checks to be made at any point of time).
And who decides which pandal is big and which is small?
According to the high court order, the local police administration is supposed to identify which of the pandals will be regarded as small pandals and which are to be identified as the bigger puja pandals.
Further, all the major pujas which are referred to in the manual of Kolkata Police, pertaining to Durga Puja 2020, will be considered as the larger pandals.
Can the list of personnel who have access to the pandals be changed?
No, the Court order says:
“It is made clear that the lists of personnel to be allowed access within the core puja pandals must be fixed and cannot be a floating list or changed everyday. The local police regulating the conduct of traffic and law and order in and around the pandals should ensure the strict compliance with the directions contained herein.”
How will enough people get to know about these COVID-related measures?
The court has asked local media to conduct awareness campaigns across the state, requesting people to maintain social distancing norms due to the pandemic, and to not descend on the streets in hoards, as in regular times, amid the Durga Puja festivities.
“The court hopes that the message is spread by the police and the executive authority all over the State to make people aware that it is in their interest that a degree of self restraint must be exercised all around.”West Bengal High Court
According to The Indian Express, on Monday, 19 October, West Bengal reported almost 4,000 COVID-19 cases in a day as a record 3,983 infections pushed up the case count to 3,21,036.
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