The Calcutta High Court on Monday, in a ruling, which has played spoiler for Mamata Banerjee’s plans of wooing Hindus of West Bengal back to the TMC fold, declared all Puja pandals in the state out of bounds for the general public, while also marking them as no-entry zones. This, despite the fact that the ruling dispensation had tried its best to convince the highest court in the state against doing so. Yet, the High Court’s decision comes as a potential saver of Bengal, as an imminent volcanic eruption of Covid cases subsequent to the Durga Puja festivities has been evaded.
Hearing public interest litigation (PIL), a Division Bench of the High Court, comprising Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Arijit Banerjee, said no one, barring select members of the puja organising committee, would be allowed to enter marquee of the pandals, the Indian Express reported. The High Court, in its order, limited the entry of Puja organising committee members – 15 for smaller pandals, 25 for bigger ones. A list of names of the organisers will have to be put up outside the pandals and only they can enter for puja-related work, the court ruled. Further, the Court also ruled that an area with a radius of 5 metres for small pandals and 10 metres for big pandals will be out of bounds for revellers.
The High Court also observed in its order that while the state government had laid out elaborate guidelines for the conduct of Puja festivities, there was no concrete blueprint in place to ensure that the guidelines would be executed across the state to ensure that the virus does not spread uncontrolled. The bench said that though the measures announced by the state government were “well-intentioned”, “they may only remain a pious wish on paper without any blueprint being chalked out for their implementation on the ground”.
With Puja pandals being declared out of bounds for the general public in Bengal this year, the TMC’s plans to somehow consolidate the Hindus voters who are increasingly getting alienated and going the BJP way have effectively been nipped in the bud. Earlier, the Mamata government had increased funding to Puja committees from Rs. 25,000 to a sharp Rs. 50,000 this year around, another move which the Court also expressed its reservations against.
Had the Puja festivities gone unchecked in the state of West Bengal, as planned by the TMC government, rest assured, India’s fight against the pandemic would most definitely take a severe hit just as the cases and deaths in the country due to Covid-19 begin to decrease significantly. The Calcutta High Court, however, has prevented a major health catastrophe in Bengal.