Courts reject pujas at Kolkata’s 2 water bodies on grounds of outbreak of COVID-19 and pollution caused to them
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday appealed to people to perform Chhath puja in their homes or neighbourhood ponds in their locality as two major water bodies of Kolkata , the Rabindra Sarovar and the Subhas Sarovar will be out of bounds. Despite the government willingness to allow devotees to perform puja at these water bodies, courts have rejected the proposition on grounds of outbreak of COVID-19 and pollution caused to the water bodies.
During the day, the Calcutta High Court made it clear that devotees won’t be allowed at the Subhas Sarovar, located in the northern parts of the city, and directed the police to take necessary steps in this regard.
SC refusal to pass order
In another development earlier in the day, the Supreme Court refused to pass any order on a petition filed by the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) seeking a review of the order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), where it disallowed Chhath puja at the Rabindra Sarovar, located south of the city.
Ms. Banerjee, in a video message, appealed to people to offer pujas from home or at neighbourhood ponds, many of which have been created by government. She said devotees may even perform the puja in the river but without processions as directed by the High Court. “Some States have banned, but we will appeal that those who want to perform puja to do it from home. Those who want to go to ponds or rivers must go in small groups without crowding and adhere to guidelines of the pandemic”. She added that the government had declared a holiday for Chhath puja.
The High Court, besides banning processions during Chhath puja, directed that all Durga Puja and Kali Puja pandals will be no-entry zones.
Environmental activist Subhas Datta welcomed the developments but expressed apprehension that the administration should take steps to prevent a recurrence of what happened the previous year. He pointed out that during the proceedings before the court, the government was keen to allow the water bodies because of “vote-bank politics” in the wake of coming Assembly elections.
Devotees in Rabindra Sarovar
Despite the NGT order that banned the use of the Rabindra Sarovar for Chhath puja, devotees forced themselves inside the water body and performed the rituals. The government has said that they cannot use force against devotees.
During the day, the civic authorities were seen constructing barricades using bamboo and tin sheets outside the Rabindra Sarovar and the Subhas Sarovar.
The festival will be observed on November 20 and 21.