Celebrate Chhath at home, West Bengal govt urges devotees

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Kolkata, Nov 19 (PTI) The West Bengal government on Thursday urged the people of the Bihari community to perform Chhath Puja rituals at home or at nearby water bodies in small groups, and shun processions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking to reporters at state secretariat 'Nabanna', Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay urged the devotees to avoid large gatherings on Chhath, which is on Friday.

'Please follow the Calcutta High Court and NGT orders.

Please avoid gatherings. Cooperate with the state government amid the pandemic. Go in small groups, avoid processions if you cannot offer puja at home,' he said.

The Calcutta High Court has issued guidelines for the Chhath Puja, imposing curbs on the number of people who can gather for rituals on the banks of rivers and other water bodies.

The court has also ruled that the National Green Tribunal's ban on holding Chhath Puja rituals at Subhas Sarobar and Rabindra Sarobar in Kolkata would be in place unless the Supreme Court directs otherwise.

A Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority official said all necessary measures are being taken to stop the entry of people to Rabindra Sarobar and Subhas Sarobar, the two ecologically sensitive lakes in the city.

The unfenced portion of the Rabindra Sarobar has been barricaded with high metal sheets, she said.

'We are ensuring that no Chhat Puja is performed in the waters of the two lakes with help of police,' the official said.

Environmentalist Subhas Dutta said the state government earlier faltered on implementing the NGT directive, banning the entry of people to the lakes on Chhath. 'We hope it will not be repeated this time.' Environmentalist Sumita Bandyopadhyay, who had petitioned the NGT over violation of its 2017 order, also hoped the state will adopt all possible measures to prevent a rerun.

'If people enter the Rabindra Sarobar area on Chhath again, it will cause largescale biodiversity damage,' she said. PTI SUS SOM SOM