People flouting COVID-19 norms in Bharat Ratna Sangha club on Sunday night

Agartala: The West district administration on Monday ordered for the closure of puja pandal of Bharat Ratna Sangha, one of the largest Durga Puja organizing clubs in Agartala, and ordered for immersion of idol by evening, after pictures of people flouting social distancing protocol and not wearing face masks, etc., went viral over social media accusing the authorities for failing to take action.

The West district magistrate (DM) Dr Shailesh Kumar Yadav in an order issued on Monday said that the state government had issued specific order under The Disaster Management Act, 2005 for strict compliance by the club or community puja organizers in connection with Durga Puja celebrations.

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“Pradyut Dhar Chowdhury, general secretary of the Bharat Ratna Sangha, Ushabazaar has submitted a notarial affidavit along with the application for Puja permission, declaring that they will allow 10-15 visitors at a time in the club premises and such gathering will be in conformity to the social distancing norms.

…on 24th October, 2020, during the evening and night hours, there was assembly of about thousand people/visitors in the Durga Puja pandal premises of Bharat Ratna Sangha, Ushabazaar, violating all COVID-19 safety norms which is a sheer violation…..,” the order reads.

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The West DM further directed the puja organizers to shut down the pandal structure for entry of the general public and complete the immersion of idols in the pandal by 7 pm on the same day.

The number of Durga Pujaorganized this year in West district was 640 with a total of 480 alone in Agartala city. However, the numbers have come down compared to 554 last year due to the outbreak of novel coronavirus and restrictions.

Earlier on September 4, Tripura government issued guidelines informing all clubs, puja committees, household and puja organizers must take prior permission from district administration, police and other concerned departments.

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“Given the COVID-19 situation, the subscriptions may be voluntary. The clubs, puja committees may try to introduce a system of collection of donation, subscription online to avoid visit of homes and personal interaction. They may circulate bank details in case such arrangements are adopted. Effort should be made by Municipal bodies to reduce the number of pandals through mutual consultation so that there are no pandals in close vicinity,” the first general guideline reads.

The second guidelines issued on October 12 mandate a mandatory Covid-19 test of the Puja organizers, volunteers and priests in a move to avert further spread of the novel coronavirus.

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The government informed that the pandals should be kept open from all sides. If the roof of the pandal is required to be sealed, then all other sides of the pandal need to be kept open and vice versa. The government prohibited to organize any kind of fair in front of the puja pandals barring few stalls could be set up at some distance from the puja pandal to avoid crowds.

The puja organizers were also asked to engage volunteers to see that the people visiting the pandals are maintaining Covid-19 norms, including social distancing, wearing facemasks etc. However, people were seen flouting the norms inside the pandals even through the state administration’s repetitive appeal.

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