Kolkata : The Calcutta High Court on Monday directed all Durga Puja pandals (marquees) in West Bengal to be made no-entry zones for the public.
The order came just a few days before the commencement of the biggest five-day festival of the Bengalis. The court said that a five-metre zone for smaller pandals and 10-metre zone for larger pandals are also included within the no-entry zone.
The HC order further pointed out that not more than 15 previously identified people in case of small pujas, and 25 previously identified people in case of larger pujas will be permitted inside the buffer zones or pandals.
These people will have to be identified previously by the organisers, a list of which has to be maintained strictly. The list cannot be a floating one, sources said.
The court said that in view of the coronavirus pandemic, the pandal areas will have to be barricaded and demarcated as no-entry zones, except for those who have been identified by the organisers in advance.
The order is applicable across the state, including all the pujas which have received Rs 50,000 from the Mamata Banerjee-led state administration.
All the major pujas, as referred to in the Kolkata Police manual, are to be considered as large pandals and shall maintain a 10-metre buffer zone all around from the extremity of the pandal.
Considering the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the high court also directed the state government to conduct awareness campaigns requesting people to maintain social distancing guidelines.
Meanwhile, at least 600 police personnel along with 26 police control room (PCR) vans and 13 additional heavy radio flying squads have been deployed in Kolkata and its vicinity to look after crowd management during the festive spell.
Besides these, as many as 31 rapid-city patrol bikes, 16 ambulances and 73 additional CCTV cameras have also been pressed into action to monitor the revellers during Durga Puja.
Police sources said that additional forces would be deployed in various Kolkata neighbourhoods during the festive days, depending on the gatherings in certain pockets during the peak hours.