The festival is celebrated with puja pandals set up by several puja committees, which spend anywhere between Rs 40 lakh to Rs 60 lakh for the celebrations.
Durga Puja in Kolkata: No grand scale Durga puja festivities in Kolkata this year! Every year, Durga Puja is celebrated with much fervour and festivities in Kolkata. However, for the first time in a long time, it seems like the celebrations could be subdued due to the dual crises of coronavirus pandemic and Cyclone Amphan. As per a report in IE, the festival would be held between October 22 and 26. The festival is celebrated with puja pandals set up by several puja committees, which spend anywhere between Rs 40 lakh to Rs 60 lakh for the celebrations. However, due to the economic slowdown triggered by the pandemic, several big oganisers have already cut down the budget for the celebrations, the IE report added.
The report stated that puja organisers at Suruchi Sangha, a popular organiser headed by West Bengal minister Anoop Biswas, have also reduced their budget by a large amount due to lack of sponsors. The report quoted the organiser’s general secretary Swarup Biswas as saying that the club is not sure about being able to hold the Puja like they have been doing for the past two decades, since there has not been any sponsorship so far this year. He further said that the financial condition of people is worrisome, due to the pay cuts and job cuts triggered by the slowdown.
He further said that the club has donated Rs 2 lakh to the CM’s relief fund, adding that at this time, the priority is to help people.
The report said that while it usually takes a year for big committees to organise the festival, the Chetla Agrani Club, headed by state minister Firhad Hakim, has not yet held even a single meeting. The report quoted club executive committee member Sandip Mukherjee as saying that the club is closed due to the lockdown. He further said that no work for the celebrations has started and that they cannot hold a theme-based puja this year. He added that the budget for the festivities would be halved and they didn’t want a large gathering at their pandal due to the pandemic. He further said that the club members are currently carrying out relief work after the cyclone.
Some organisers were quoted as saying that ensuring that social distancing norms are followed in the pandals during the celebration would be a major challenge for them.
Mudiali Club secretary Ashok Dey said that they spent Rs 55 lakh for the celebrations last year, but this time, the puja will be organised under Rs 25 lakh. He added that the club is not accepting donations from people, and the puja will be held using the puja fund. However, there is uncertainty about whether people would indulge in pandal hopping or if social gatherings would even be allowed at the time or not. The report said that the club has placed curbs on the procession for idol immersion to prevent social gathering.
The report stated that the main road leading to the club’s pandal has recently been classified as a red zone after one local tested positive for COVID-19. The containment was lifted as no infections had been reported over 21 days.
For small organisers, relief work during the dual crises are more important than planning for festivities, the report said, adding that in Santoshpur, the electricity was restored six days after Amphan struck. Santoshpur Lake Pally member Rana Dasgupta has been quoted as saying that the group is in survival mode. They distributed free ration to 600 families impacted by the cyclone, and Dasgupta said that while they will hold the celebrations, it would be on a small scale, like it was held three decades ago.