Other States

Use Durga Puja dole only for COVID-19 prevention steps: HC

Women wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) sanitize a "pandal" or a temporary platform, ahead of Durga Puja, in Kolkata, October 16, 2020.   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

The Calcutta High Court on Friday directed that the money allocated by the West Bengal government to Durga Puja committees should be used only for improving community policing and procuring masks and sanitizers for containing the spread of COVID-19.

A division bench of Justices Sanjib Banerjee and Arijit Banerjee, in an interim order, said the money allocated could not be used for any other purpose such as conducting any Puja activity, musical soiree or entertainment of the organisers.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, on September 24, announced that the government would give ₹50,000 to each of the 37,000 clubs across the State.

According to the court, 75% of the money should be used only for procurement of masks, sanitizers and face shields and 25% for strengthening police - public bonding and inclusion of more women in community policing.

“During the hearing, government counsel said the money allocated to clubs is not for Puja but for certain schemes such community policing and distributing masks and sanitizer, etc. The court, on the basis of that statement said that not a single rupee should be spent on Puja,” Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, counsel for petitioner Sourav Ghosh said.

The bench observed that the announcement made by the Chief Minister while announcing the allocation of funds and the government’s notification were on two different lines. She had highlighted the financial stress faced by Durga Puja committees while announcing financial aid. The government notification, however, referred that money would be spent on community policing and distribution of masks.

‘Complete bluff’

Reacting to the interim order, Mr. Bhattacharya said the development proved that the announcement made by the Chief Minister was a “complete bluff”. The court in its interim order also directed that bills of masks and sanitisers’ procurement should be submitted to the Sub Divisional Officers (SDO) of the districts and the Kolkata Police for thorough auditing and report on this would be submitted to the court.

The case will come up for hearing again after the vacation.

The government started giving money to Durga Puja clubs in 2018. The matter was then challenged in the High Court and thegovernment's argument was the money was for promoting Safe Drive Safe Live scheme. The amount was increased to ₹ 25,000 in 2019 and ₹ 50,000 this year.

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2020 4:50:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/durga-puja-grant-to-be-used-on-covid-19-equipment-public-police-bonding-calcutta-hc/article32873087.ece

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