Tripura shuts down Durga Puja pandal after visuals of massive crowds go viral


After visuals of crowds thronging one of the lartgest Durga Puja pandal in Agartala went viral on social media, West Tripura district administration Monday ordered the organisers, Bharat Ratna Sangha, to shut it down and immerse the idol the same evening.

In an order issued on Monday, West Tripura District Magistrate Shailesh Kumar Yadav said the state government had issued specific guidlines under The Disaster Management Act, 2005 for strict compliance by the club or community puja organizers to avoid community transmission of COVID-19.

“Pradyut Dhar Chowdhury, general secretary of the Bharat Ratna Sangha, Ushabazaar has submitted a notarial affidavit along with the application for Puja permission, declaring that they will allow 10-15 visitors at a time in the club premises and such gathering will be in conformity to the social distancing norms….on 24th October, 2020, during the evening and night hours, there was assembly of about thousand people/.visitors in the Durga Puja pandal premises of Bharat Ratna Sangha, Ushabazaar, violating all COVId-19 safety norms which is a sheer violation…..”, the order reads.

Speaking to this morning, District Magistrate Yadav said that the order had to be passed in order to save human lives and prevent a fresh outbreak of coronavirus.

“There is a provision to pass orders restricting common public to enter the pandal under section 144. So, we have issued that order to prevent imminent danger to public life and health. However, no curfew has been imposed under this section,” he said.

The Bharat Ratna Sangha members did not comment on the matter.

As per government records, over 640 community clubs organized Durga Puja festivities in West Tripura district this year with over 480 puja pandals in the Agartala city. The figures have come down in the capital city as compared to the 554 from last year. And Idols from over 120 puja organizing clubs were immersed across 17 immersion ghaats in and around Agartala on Monday. The state government has ordered phase-wise immersion of idols.

However, the puja guidelines were visibly flouted by devotees who failed to follow social distancing norms. The streets were crowded yesterday even as the government imposed a seven-hour no entry order on vehicle movement in the city area since Thursday.

Tripura revised its Durga Puja guidelines twice in the last one month as the High Court asked the government to continue vigilance and hold massive awareness campaign to avoid spread of coronavirus during the festival period.

On October 13, the High Court said in an order, “The experience in the state of Kerala during Onam was alarming because despite their management the state saw sudden spike in case which gives us certain amount of anxiety” and asked the government to maintain COVID guidelines properly. Soon after, Law minister Ratan Lal Nath informed his government was working on a formula to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The first Durga Puja guidelines were issued in Tripura on September 4, where the government instructed puja organizers to collect subscriptions through online mode, reduce number of puja pandals through mutual consultation, avoid narrow entrance and exit systems in pandals, allow a maximum of 5-10 people inside the pandal, among others.

The revised guidelines, issued 37 days later, mandated COVID-19 tests for puja organizers, volunteers and priests. The revised rules have also asked the pandals to be open from all sides, sealed roofs of all pandals, cap on stalls outside pandals etc.