Considered one of the biggest street festivals in the world, Durga Puja is one of the largest employment generators in Kolkata, providing jobs to over 1 lakh people for nearly six months every year.
From those erecting the pandals to the decorators, idol-makers to craftsmen, electricians to security persons, priests to dhakis, the Pujas have helped thousands boost their earnings.
But now, as India prepares for the arrival of Maa Durga this year, the fear of the predictable third wave of Covid-19 and event cancellations are dampening the Puja celebrations.
With 16 days to go for the grand festival, state governments across the country are clamping down on mass gatherings.
This time people have decided to keep the celebrations low key given the Covid-19 situation. In order to contain the spread of virus and monitor the crowd, the Siliguri Metropolitan Police will launch a mobile app for pandal-hoppers in and around Siliguri ahead of Durga Puja.
The police also aim to undertake drone surveillance for aerial vigilance. During the Puja days, additional forces will be deployed in various places of Siliguri, including key crossings and near the prominent Pandals.
The state health department has also directed the traffic police to surround all the markets with a barricading of bamboo sticks with separate entry and exit points to control the influx of people.
Reportedly, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has also announced Rs 50,000 as financial assistance to all the Durga Puja committees in the state. She has also appealed to the Puja committees to distribute hand sanitisers to devotees at the pandal.
Meanwhile, the Odisha government has made it clear that all pujas and festivals, including Dussehra and Diwali, will be celebrated without congregation of devotees.
Maharashtra that was among India’s virus hotspots has barred public processions and restricted crowds for the festive season.
Union Health Ministry has said that people must follow the Covid-19 guidelines issued by the government and avoid mass gathering in containment zones and in districts with over 5 percent positivity rate.
Health Ministry also said that full vaccination against Covid-19 should be a prerequisite if attending gatherings is essential. Whereas states like Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh have encouraged people to celebrate the festival either privately at home or at a ground with minimal capacity of devotees.