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Vikash Sharma

Resentment is brewing in many quarters over the restrictions clamped by the Odisha government for the upcoming festive season including Durga puja to prevent any further outbreak of Covid-19 infection.

A day after staging a protest in rain demanding relaxations in the government directive, members the Cuttack Juba Sangathan observed a mock demonstration in the Millennium City on Tuesday.

The members have raised objections to the restrictions that limit the height of the idols at 4 ft. “Will the Covid infection come down by constructing 4 ft high Durga idols,” they questioned. Others have also questioned the government decision in imposing various restrictions through the guidelines issued for the month of September.

It is pertinent to mention here that the government has allowed reopening of malls and cinema halls in the latest unlock guidelines.

“We want to know why such restrictions have been imposed for the festivals when the government has allowed other activities in its latest guidelines. If the State government doesn’t reconsider its decision within 7 days, we will be forced to intensify our agitation,” said Gagan Ojha, president of Cuttack Samajik Sangathan.

Several outfits are of the view that there is no harm if the government allows darshan by setting up barricades in front of mandaps instead of allowing conduct of rituals in a closed area. Several puja committees in the city are also extending support to the demands put forth by the youth associations.

The Cuttack city unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday had called for a bandh in the city on September 13 to protest the restrictions imposed by the State government during Durga Puja.

Not only Cuttack, Durga puja organisors in Bhubaneswar too are gearing up to observe a similar bandh in the Smart City. Today, a delegation met the Twin City Police Commissioner and demanded to reconsider such directives which tend to dampen the festive atmosphere.

“There are different Puja commitees and 3 Bhasana (immersion) committees in Bhubaneswar. We are holding discussions and might opt to call a bandh on the same day (September 13),” said Harish Prasad Rath, Secretary of Bhasan Committee in Bhubaneswar.

The issue of festive season restrictions, idol height and darshan restrictions were also raised in the Odisha Assembly. Congress MLAs including Mohammad Moquim and Suresh Routray created ruckus and demanded a ruling by the Speaker SN Patro. Normalcy returned to the house only after the Speaker stated that the Covid-19 guidelines issued by the State government for Durga Puja might be reconsidered.

Meanwhile, the BJP and BJD leaders were engaged in a war of words over the bandh call given by the former.

“As Covid restrictions have been relaxed, we want the State government to reconsider its decision. Durga Puja should be held as per the tradition which is followed in Cuttack and other parts of the State. There should be no restriction on the height of the idols and the festivals should be held openly,” said Moquim.

Senior BJP leader, Samir Dey said, “As the State government took unilateral decision without holding talks with Puja commitees and Shanti committee, we were forced to call the bandh on September 13.”

BJD leader, Debashish Samantaray, on the other hand, said, “There should be no politics over Durga Puja. Whatever rules have been made is applicable for the whole State and there cannot be separate rules for Cuttack. Already the secretary of Cuttack Mahanagar Puja Committee has written to the State government to increase the height of idols and conduct of the Durga puja without any covering of the mandaps.”

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