Agartala, Oct. 16: The festive mood here has been marred by allegations of extortion and attacks on businessmen by Puja committees collecting subscriptions.
Chief minister Manik Sarkar had urged Puja organisers about a month back not to spoil the festive mood by extorting in the name of subscription. However, his requests seem to have fallen on deaf ears with youths from Puja committees creating fear among locals and the business community.
The officer-in-charge of East Agartala police station, Partha Sarathi Paul, said they had banned the preparatory work by Bijay Sangha in Banamalipur, after a local businessman Adhir Saha lodged a complaint against them for extortion and damage to property.
"Saha complained that workers of Bijay Sangha had ransacked his shop and destroyed furniture and locks after he refused to pay Rs 22,000 as subscription for Durga Puja," said Paul. Saha is a dealer of Mahindra two-wheelers and a cable operator.
The truck owners and three business associations in Maharajganj market have called an emergency meeting after receiving reports of indiscriminate extortion from truck drivers and owners by members of four clubs around the area.
Dilip Banik, president of Grocery Merchants' Association here, said they had fixed rates of subscription to be given to Durga Puja organisers but members of MBB Club, Chhatrabandhu Sangha, Ramthakur Sangha and Netaji Sangha were extorting money from truck drivers.
"We will take a decision in our joint meeting and if the extortion persists, we will approach the administration for action," said Banik.
On the other hand, Prafullajit Sinha, chairman of Agartala Municipal Council, said the total number of community Pujas in the town might go up.
"We have not yet compiled the final figures which will be available on October 20 but initial information suggests the total number is likely to go up as we are still receiving applications from Puja organisers," he said. He said they were having discussions with the police and fire brigade over safety measures to be adopted in Puja pandals.