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Durga Pujo: Open-air pandals will be the new normal amid COVID-19


KOLKATA: A day after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee advocated erecting open marquees (pandals) to contain the spread of COVID-19, several Durga Puja organisers on Tuesday said they have already started preparations to ensure revellers are able to catch a glimpse of the idols of the goddess from a distance.

Most members of Forum for Durgotsav, an association of 350 award-winning Durga Puja committees, said they will adhere to the new normal amid the COVID-19 pandemic, while celebrating Bengal's biggest festival.

Somen Dutta, secretary of Kashi Bose Lane Pujo Committee, said, "We have already made arrangements so that the pandal is open from three sides. We will discuss the details with the administration."

Santoshpur Lake Pally has decided to place the idols in an open-air pandal with bright lights accentuating them.

"We are happy that the suggestions made by the CM and the state government's global advisory board were already incorporated in our pandal layout plan. We would urge people to enter the pandal in small groups," puja committee General Secretary Somnath Das said.

He said the idols will be visible from the adjacent road, and those wanting to come inside need to carry sanitisers and wear masks.

The pandal will also have sanitiser tunnels for entry and exit.

Sumantra Roy of Jodhpur Park Sarbojonin Durga Puja, said it has decided not to allow entry of visitors in the hall where the idols will be kept.

"We will live-stream the puja proceedings on giant screens across a stretch of one km area leading to our pandal. There will also be a tableau moving around the city with another idol," he said.

Chetla Agroni, patronised by West Bengal minister Firhad Hakim, said it will place the idols on an elevated platform so that people can see without entering the marquee area.

"We will not allow anyone to enter the park where the pandal is coming up. This year, the pandal will be high on artistry, aesthetics and above all, devotion," an organising committee member said.

Banerjee had on Monday said her government has accepted suggestions of the Global Advisory Board that recommended that pandals should not be covered so as to allow enough ventilation.