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SOP on Puja triggers controversy, Cachar admin to hold consultation
Staff Correspondent
 SILCHAR, Oct 4 - Ahead of the Durga Puja festivities amidst the scare of COVID-19 pandemic, the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) issued by the District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) Cachar headed by Deputy Commissioner Keerthi Jalli has triggered controversy and has drawn strong repercussions from people in the district and also on social media.

 The SOP issued under Section 34 of the Disaster Management Act 2005, on Friday which is in continuation of the letter no ASDMA 24/2020/Pt-I/119 dated 16-09-2020 issued from the Chief Secretary Government of Assam and also to contain the gains made in the fight against coronavirus has put in a host of restrictions in organising and celebrating Durga Puja including prohibition on temporary puja pandals, a maximum of five persons allowed for carrying the idols for Puja following the COVID-19 protocols, fixed timing for opening and closing of Puja premises from 5 am till 10 pm starting from Mahapanchami to Mahanabami, idols which must be prepared within five feet in height to be worshipped in one single frame etc. Further, along prohibition on the plying of two wheelers, the SOP has also stated that pushpanjali may be allowed for devotees in small group of 5-10 persons maintaining social distancing along with other key points.

Netizens, with a flurry of posts on social media have raised voices of dissatisfaction on the SOP and demanded that the administration must have a relook into the points.

Asked about her reactions on the issue, Deputy Commissioner Keerthi Jalli told The Assam Tribune on Sunday “we are having a consultation on the issue.”

Meanwhile, in a memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner the idol makers under the banner of Cachar Zila Mritshilpi Samiti have placed their plight saying that the tasks of constructing idols gets done by Mahalaya and this year too the idols have been nearly completed. “Under the circumstances, constructing idols with the new specifications of five feet in height would not be possible. Hence we urge upon your good self to reconsider on the instructions as we thrive upon our work especially during the festive season,” the artisans urged.

Interestingly, Cachar district BJP president Kaushik Rai has put forth some suggestions in this regard. In a letter to the Deputy Commissioner, Rai has drawn attention of the administration regarding construction of temporary puja pandals which should be allowed without disturbing traffic and road blockade. As idol preparation started before Mahalaya, now it would be impossible to alter the size and height of the frames. Moreover, separately framed idols are easy to carry for immersion, he said.

“We request a maximum of 30 persons inclusive of organizers and priests may be allowed to gather at any time in the puja pandals maintaining proper social distance. Also, 25 persons may be allowed for pushpanjali and arati maintaining proper social distancing.

Further, we request administration to provide CCTV cameras in all the puja pandals for smooth functioning of law and order and maintaining social distancing. Thana level meeting in both urban and rural areas with respective puja committees must be held. Movement of two-wheelers may be allowed as per traffic rule and sound system may be allowed in puja pandals,” the district BJP chief has mentioned in the letter.

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