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HC bans Chhath Puja rituals at 2 lakes; CM urges all to comply with court order

HC bans Chhath Puja rituals at 2 lakes; CM urges all to comply with court order
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Kolkata: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday urged the devotees to observe Chhath Puja in their homes, wherever possible, or at the neighbourhood ponds as two major water bodies— Rabindra Sarobar and Subhas Sarobar will remain out of bounds following the Calcutta High Court order given in lieu of the pandemic and pollution caused to the water bodies. Meanwhile, the civic bodies have also set up several temporary water bodies in and around the city to avoid crowding.

The Chief Minister in a video message, said: "The devotees may offer the Puja from home or ponds in the neighbourhood or even at a river. But it has to be done without processions in case they are visiting nearby ponds or rivers to offer the Puja."

Earlier in the day, the Calcutta High Court refused to allow Chhath Puja rituals at Subhas Sarobar in the eastern part of the city, rejecting a modification application by the state government. The court had earlier disallowed Chhath Puja at the sprawling lake in addition to upholding a ban on such activities at Rabindra Sarobar, another waterbody in south Kolkata. The Supreme Court on Thursday also ruled that Chhath Puja will not be allowed at the Rabindra Sarobar lakes.

The High Court division bench comprising justices Sanjib Banerjee and Arijit Banerjee rejected the state government's application, observing that apart from the pollution of the waterbody, there are concerns about Coronavirus-related health issues. The bench also said that restrictions were also imposed for crowd management to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during Durga Puja and Kali Puja.

The state government on Thursday had moved the High Court, seeking modification of its November 10 order banning Chhath Puja rituals at the two lakes.

Meanwhile, extending her greetings to the people on Chhath Puja, the Chief Minister said: "Offer your Puja properly. But all of you have to keep in mind that this time there is the Covid pandemic. As a result, we have even failed to observe many festivals properly. During Durga Puja, there were also many restrictions to check the spread of COVID-19. There was also a ban on bursting of firecrackers during Kali Puja. I would like to thank people for their cooperation as both the festivals had passed peacefully without any untoward incident".

Speaking on the temporary water bodies made, Banerjee said: "Around 1500 ponds have been dug. But it is my appeal to all to not go there at the same time and it has to be done in small groups." She further added that devotees will not have to travel long distances to offer the Puja with the ponds being dug near their locality.

Stating that there is also the Calcutta High Court's order not to hold any procession this time, Banerjee said: "Many states have directed devotees to organise Puja only inside their houses. In Bengal, you all can go to ponds and rivers. But it has to be done in very small groups so that Covid does not spread and the direction of the Court does not get violated."

Assuring all support of the state, the Chief Minister appealed to the people that they should take any steps which will put them in danger of getting infected with Covid.

Moreover, police and local administration across the state is taking all steps to make people aware of the Covid norms that have to be followed during Chhath Puja. Kolkata Police will deploy around five thousand police personnel at all the venues for observing Chaath. Deputy Commissioners (DC) of every division will supervise the arrangement. The Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) has also made elaborate arrangements for devotees for observing the Chaath ritual. "We will strictly abide by the court's order. There are adequate alternative arrangements made for the benefit of the devotees," said Firhad Hakim, Chairman of KMDA.

The state government has also announced a two-day holiday on Chhath Puja.

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