16 Oct 2020: Why Rs. 50,000 grant for puja organizers, Bengal government asked
As Durga Puja fast approaches, the Calcutta High Court on Thursday asked the West Bengal government, led by Trinamool matriarch Mamata Banerjee, why Rs. 50,000 was given to each committee across the state.
The bench asked if such incentives were given during festivals like Eid.
A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) questioned the government's decision, saying it vilifies India's democratic values.
PIL: Left-leaning activist asked why masks and sanitizers weren't purchased
The PIL was filed by Sourav Dutta, an activist from Durgapur having Left ideologies.
Dutta asked the state government why masks and sanitizers were not purchased, which could have cost lesser than the grants given to puja committees.
He also asked how committees were allowed to set up pandals and people permitted to visit when schools and colleges are shut due to coronavirus.
Appeal: Considering coronavirus crisis, deny permission for puja: Petitioner to HC
Dutta also sought to understand the state government's preparations and added that police will have to do the heavy lifting.
He urged the court to put a restriction on puja pandals this year, citing the concerns of doctors that an elaborate celebration will lead to a tsunami of coronavirus infections.
The state currently has 309,417 coronavirus cases. 5,870 have died since the outbreak.
Question: Committees getting public money, HC told state government
A bench of Justices Sanjib Banerjee and Arijit Banerjee asked the state government if guidelines for expenditure were laid down, as the committees were getting public money.
The HC also sought to understand how the West Bengal government plans to manage crowds during the festive season.
Banerjee had announced the grants on September 24, along with other incentives.
Fact: State electricity board will give waiver as well: Banerjee
"We have decided to provide Rs. 50,000 grant to each Durga puja committee of the state. We have also decided that CESC and the state electricity board will give 50 percent waiver for the puja committees," Banerjee had declared.
Order: Petitioner, state were ordered to hold a conference
The state's representative Advocate General Kishore Dutta and senior counselor Bikash Bhattacharya, who put forward the petitioner's concerns, were told to hold a conference and apprise the court about the outcome today, when the matter will come up again for hearing.
Reacting to the case, Trinamool's Partha Chatterjee said Durga puja isn't just a festival of Bengalis, but an entire race.
Fact: Safety won't be compromised with, assured Trinamool leader
"Durga puja is being held with all safety and health protocols being maintained. The state government and puja committees are making efforts to ensure COVID infection remains in check. They are holding awareness on the issue. The puja is being held keeping everything in mind," he said.
Looking back: Grants to committees sparked legal battle earlier as well
In 2018, the state government announced Rs. 10,000 grant for puja committees, a move which was challenged in HC. Initially, the court stayed the disbursement of funds, but the order was withdrawn after the government, in its arguments, said the money was meant for awareness.
The petitioner then approached the Supreme Court, where the matter is still pending.
Last year, Rs. 25,000 was announced.