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Mamata announces doles for Durga Puja committees

"We have also decided that the two power utilities in the state CESC Ltd and West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd will give 50 per cent concession to every puja committee in their respective areas," she said addressing the annual Durga Puja Coordination meeting here. The development comes within a week after the state government announced monthly financial assistance of Rs 1000 and free housing for more than 8,000 Sanatan Brahmin priests of the state.

PTI | Kolkata | Updated: 24-09-2020 23:51 IST | Created: 24-09-2020 23:24 IST
Mamata announces doles for Durga Puja committees
Representative image. Image Credit: ANI

Facing flak from BJP for alleged minority appeasement, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday doubled the annual financial assistance to Durga Puja organisers across the state to Rs 50,000. She also announced a 50 per cent waiver in charges for consumption of electricity by the Puja committees in the state, who consume substantial power for the grand illumination during the five-day festival.

Around 34,437 and 2,509 Pujas are organised under the jurisdiction of West Bengal police and Kolkata Police respectively, she said. The week-long festivities will begin on October 23.

Announcing a slew of doles for the Puja committees in the state, Banerjee slammed BJP for spreading rumours about the festival. "Few people want to disturb the peace and flare up communal tensions in the state". Banerjee, a staunch critic of the saffron party, asserted that none will be allowed to do politics with Durga Puja and called upon the people to maintain the state's tradition of amity.

BJP, which has emerged as the prime challenger to the TMC, has often accused Banerjee of indulging in appeasing the Muslims in the state for the sake of vote bank politics. Lauding the communal harmony in Bengal, the chief minister said that in the last six months due to the lockdown, several religious festivals and programmes of various communities could not be held.

"But despite such a rich heritage of communal harmony, there are a few political parties and people who are spreading canards against us. They want to disturb the peace and flare up communal riots in the state. Please don't pay heed to rumours. If I say something, my words are distorted to spread rumours. We will organize Durga Puja with all safety precautions," Banerjee, who is also the TMC supremo, said. While listing the dos and don'ts for the Durga Puja committees, Banerjee, asked them to prepare open-air marquees and ensure social distancing in view of the pandemic, besides safety precautions for the devotees visiting the pandals.

"Due to the COVID pandemic, it has been a tough time for all of us. We have decided to provide Rs 50,000 grant to each Durga Puja committee of the state. "We have also decided that the two power utilities in the state CESC Ltd and West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd will give 50 per cent concession to every puja committee in their respective areas," she said addressing the annual Durga Puja Coordination meeting here.

The development comes within a week after the state government announced monthly financial assistance of Rs 1000 and free housing for more than 8,000 Sanatan Brahmin priests of the state. Since 2018 Banerjee has been announcing grants for Puja committees, which have gone up from Rs 10,000 in 2018 to 25,000 in 2019. Last year, the state government had announced a concession of 25 per cent by the two power utilities in the state.

The chief minister announced that the state fire and emergency services department, Kolkata Municipal Corporation, other civic bodies, municipalities and panchayats will not charge any fees or tax for their services from the puja organizers. "We will request the puja organizers to prepare open- air marquees. It will reduce the risk of contagion. It is a suggestion by our Global Advisory Board. Steps should be taken to ensure proper crowd management and ensure that devotees entering the pandals are wearing masks.

"There should be a facility of sanitising hands at the entry and exit gates. Separate gates should be made for entry and exit," Banerjee said. Stating that the hugely popular Puja carnival in the city will not be organised this year, she said "Next year we will organise it in a big way. I request the Puja committees to hold the immersion ceremony with proper safety precautions".

The Carnival, a brainchild of Banerjee, is being organized by the West Bengal government for the last few years at the sprawling Red Road where the award-winning Durga Puja committees showcase their idols for hordes of spectators. Banerjee also announced salary hike for Asha workers and civic police personnel by Rs 1000 from October.

"The hawkers of the state had a tough time in the last six months due to COVID-19. We will provide a grant of Rs 2000 to each hawker of the state. We have already prepared a list of 75000-80000 hawkers," she said. Speaking on her decision to provide financial assistance and free housing to Hindu priests, Banerjee said her government does not believe in discrimination.

"The state wakf board provides allowances to Imams and muezzins. They will also get housing through the Wakf board. If people from other communities also want any help, they can inform us. We will help them out," she added.


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