With sanitizers in hands and face masks on faces, this Durga Puja is bound to be different. A lot of regulations and precautionary steps have been put in place by the Government of India regarding religious functions happening in different parts of the country. Kolkata’s Durga Puja is the biggest carnival for the Bengalis where the arrival of Maa Durga ushers in joy and happiness and brings together people of all cast, class and creed. The carnival continues for six days and is accompanied withpandal hopping, binging and flaunting new clothes. But this year the spread of infection has thrown a spanner in the puja plans of revelers. With social distancing being one of the key components of curbing the infection spread and carrying sanitizers the new normal, this Durga Puja will set new trends.
When it comes to sanitizer, news of deaths and serious injuries from adulterated brands have made quite a few headlines in the recent past. The story of the Texas woman arms catching fire, as she tried to light a candle after using sanitizer and eventually the fire spreading to the sanitization bottle and exploding, leaving the lady’s face and body scalded – gave us some nasty scare. In another case, a 44 year old man who accidentally spilled sanitizer on clothes while standing close to cooking gas was on fire within seconds. Also, in a similar case in Haryana, a man while cleaning his household items with alcohol based hand sanitizer burnt himself badly.
Hand sanitizers are being widely used at regular intervals these days and its importance in curbing COVID infections is now axiomatic. But it is a source of accident as well and people have to be extremely cautious while using hand sanitizers at home and outside. Alcohol based sanitizers widely advised to be used are particularly dangerous. Carnivals and celebrations are important, but we must understand that safety is a bigger concern this year, as sanitizers will be carried around by all and sundry.
Puja pandals are usually made up of fabrics and the platform where the idol of Goddess Durga is placed is adorned with lighted incense sticks and any contact with sanitizers and similar such alcohol based disinfectants can be fatal. A brief discussion with the Director General of Fire and Emergency services, Shri Jag Mohan, revealed that Kolkata is meticulously gearing up for the upcoming Puja maintaining all possible safety measures.
“We have kept provisions for an electric panel room, which will be segregated properly keeping in mind the safety of the pandal and people. We have also arranged a type of suppression system; all electrical circuits have been checked for open joints and have been tied and fixed. In addition to this, all the articles for sanitization are mandated to be environment friendly, sanitization jars not to be more than 5 litres capacity and incense sticks or flammable items not to be kept near sanitization machines or jars,” notifies Jag Mohan.
We also talked to some puja committee members working in the frontline for the upcoming Durga Puja, to know about the safety protocols and their opinion about the safety issue.
Behala Nutan Sangha Puja committee has taken all possible measures to prevent accidents during puja. “This year we have used safe materials like iron and mirrors to make our pandal. Our electrical wires are all in piping which prevents fire breakout. Visitors will be allowed to worship from a distance of 15ft from the pandal to maintain safe distance. The sanitizer machine will be kept at the entrance of the street, very far from the pandal,” says Mr Shreejit Chatterjit, a member of the Behala Nuton Sangha pujo Committee.
Every year, Deshapriya Park Puja becomes the cynosure of the soiree because of the grandeur of their pandal and majestic look of Goddess Durga. This year the committee members have followed all guidelines of the government and have put regulations to ensure safety. Tapan Chowdhury, a senior member of the Deshapriya Park Puja Committee talks about their safety guidelines for Puja 2020, “This time we will be having an open puja and will try to minimize gathering, although it is the responsibility of Kolkata Police to handle crowds. We will ensure that people worship from a distance of 30ft and do not cross the barricade. Only the priest and few people will be allowed near the platform. We have ensured that sanitization takes place on the other side of the barricade so that there is no risk in the area adjoining the pandal. Moreover, the platform hosting Maa Durga will be covered while the rest will be open air to ensure good ventilation and air circulation. Visitors will stand 3ft apart.”
Like every year, Rajdanga Naba Udayan Sangha will have its pandal made of eco friendly materials and no inflammable products will be used inside the pandal. “We use fire repellant wires which are anti smoke and reduce the spread of fire. Sanitizers will be used by all but we have taken the right protection measures as per guidelines. Also visitors will worship from a distance of 10ft from the platform and will have to wear masks,” says Mihir Das, Joint Secretary of the Pujo Committee.
With all pujo committees gearing up to welcome Maa Durga by ensuring safety for all, let us hope that like every year this puja will also be a joyful occasion.