Dist administration has made it clear that guidelines issued by state govt have to be strictly followed during puja Credit: Representational Image

Dhubri: Taking into account the COVID-19 guidelines issued by the government of Assam making it mandatory for priests to get tested before pujas, the Dhubri Anchalik Brahman Samaj took a unanimous resolution not to undergo COVID test and not to perform puja if necessary. This has landed the organizers of the upcoming festival in a huge dilemma.

Durga puja is reportedly the major source of income for priests for the year and the test can put them in trouble if tested positive.

A major concern of the priests remains that for majority of them, Durga puja is major source of income for the year and this test can put them in trouble, if tested positive. If anyone is tested positive on the first day of the puja, it will have a severe impact on his finances. They convened an emergency meeting on October 16 and decided that if the rules are not amended then priests will refrain from taking part in the Puja.

“What about the devotees who will come to seek the blessings of the goddess. Won’t we need to bless them with the ‘teeka’? What if they are positive carriers?” said a member of the Dhubri Anchalik Brahman Samaj.

Members of the organizing committee had requested for special relaxation in the matter especially the priests and the volunteers.

The district administration, last week, had duly briefed the organizing committees with regards to the strict adherence of the guidelines. Members of the organizing committee had expressed similar concerns regarding the mandatory COVID tests and had requested for special relaxation in the matter especially the priests and the volunteers. However, the district administration had made it clear that the guidelines had to be strictly adhered to.

Dhubri town, last year, hosted about 104 Durga pujas and within the district, around 300. Due to the pandemic and economic slowdown this year, there will be only around 70 odd Durga puja pandals in Dhubri town this time. Most of the priests are locals, while the rest come from the neighboring state, West Bengal.

During the same briefing with the district administration, a member of the organizing committee commented that if no local priests are not available, they would have to bring priests from West Bengal, which would be a burden on the organizing committee.

“We have received complaints that priests do not want to get tested but if they do not do so and even if one of them is positive, he will infect so many devotees over four days,” state health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said in Guwahati.

The organizers raised their concerns that if on testing the assigned priest was found to be COVID positive, it would next to impossible to find his replacement.

“If that is a problem, then the priests can be tested before Panchami but they must do it or else the situation may again take a turn for the worse,” he continued.

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