| Kolkata |
Updated: April 17, 2020 1:34:46 pm
The COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown is going to result in a muted Durga Puja celebrations in Kolkata this year, but the pandals are not being cancelled, it is learnt. The Forum for Durgotsab, the city-based organisation that oversees all sarbojanin or community Durga Puja pandals in the Kolkata metropolitan area, dismissed reports that there would be no pandals due to the coronavirus outbreak.
In the Kolkata metropolitan area, there are approximately 400 big pandals constructed every year, in addition to countless smaller neighbourhood pandals.
“Major puja organisers in the city have informally decided that pujas will be organised on a smaller scale. But they will not be cancelled. There is no question of that,” said Sandipan Banerjee, vice-president, Forum for Durgotsab.
“We have gotten feedback from sponsors that they don’t know much money they’ll be able to give us this year because their first-quarter income has been impacted.” Lockdown orders by the central government recently impacted Bengali New Year, Poila Boishak celebrations, where people were unable to step out of their homes for rituals and engage in their customary meetings with family and friends.
Organisers believe West Bengal-based enterprises and companies that usually sponsor the pandals may not give puja committees as much money as they usually do because of the economic impact that they themselves are facing post the lockdown. However, organisers say there will be more clarity on the situation in the coming weeks.
“We are facing budget cuts and we have given money from our puja budget to the CM Relief Fund for coronavirus and we may give more in the future. So we will have a pandal but we will curtail our spending. We know that our sponsors will not be able to give us enough money for the pandal this year. As of now, we still have plans to go ahead with our plans for Durga Puja, but a lot depends on government advisories and we will cooperate with and support the government,” said Debabrata Mukherjee, president of Behala Nutan Dal, one of the biggest community pujas in Kolkata.
“If the government makes a decision due to coronavirus, then we’ll do the pujas in a very small way. Durga Puja has always happened here and the government has always been involved. So we will see what they will say and maybe organise it by maintaining social distancing between visitors,” said Banerjee.
In West Bengal, Durga Puja has become heavily commercialised over the years. “This is not just a religious festival but it is a big industry with big income attached, from people shopping for clothes to the musicians who play the dhaak to the pandals. So it won’t be totally cancelled. We will know more by July but the planning for puja is still going on,” added Banerjee.
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