Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday hiked the financial assistance for each of the state’s over 40,000 Durga puja-organising clubs to Rs 60,000 from last year’s Rs 50,000, besides announcing a 60 per cent rebate on electricity bills.
She said that state government employees would be entitled to an 11-day leave on the occasion of Durga puja the biggest festival in Bengal from September 30.
Banerjee also stated that her government would take out a rally on September 1 to thank UNESCO for according the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) tag to the festival.
“The Centre is not releasing funds for Bengal as a result of which the state is suffering. Despite that, we have decided to increase financial assistance for puja committees from last year’s Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000. We will also give them a rebate of 60 per cent on the electricity bill,” Banerjee said.
Also, the govt, in keeping with the tradition over the past few years, would not levy several other taxes on the puja organisers, including ones imposed on advertisements, she affirmed.
The chief minister stressed that the September 1 rally would have no political agenda, and anybody and everybody was free to join it.
“This year, celebrations will be unique. Pujas will commence a day before the Mahalaya. We will organise a rally on September 1. It will not be a rally to thank UNESCO, and all are welcome to participate in it. The rally will commence from Jorasanko Thakurbari at 2 pm.
“I urge Kolkata Pujo Forum (body of Durga puja organisers), police personnel as well as the leaders, including MPs and MLAs, to ensure that all events take place peacefully and successfully. Do not pay heed to any instigation. I am also urging all clubs to participate in the rally,” she said.
In a veiled attack at the BJP, she said there are some who had claimed that Durga puja and Saraswati puja are not allowed in Bengal, but have they ever thought about the scale of celebrations here and also whether such arrangements are made for these festivals anywhere else .
Ahead of last year’s assembly polls, several BJP leaders had alleged that Durga and Saraswati puja celebrations faced hindrances in Bengal under TMC rule.
Banerjee, talking about the September 1 rally, suggested that offices and schools be closed by 1 pm on that day to avoid chaos and traffic congestion.
“We thank UNESCO for giving Durga Puja the ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’ tag. As we welcome our Maa’ in the most special way, let’s make this years’ pujo grander and happier for each and everyone,” she added.
“Celebrate the way you want. Let someone play the conch shell at the rally if she wants to, someone may sing… But everyone must wear bright clothes. I will invite 10,000 students from senior schools to be part of this rally,” she stated at an administrative meeting at Netaji Indoor Stadium here.
The CM also said that the annual Durga Puja carnival at Red Road here would be held on October 8, three days after ‘Dashami’.
Similar carnivals would also be arranged in the districts, she said, adding that the government would be giving a two-day holiday for Kali Puja.
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