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Despite night curfew in force crowd outsmart police, court order

 
night curfew

Ashok Chatterjee

Kolkata (The Hawk): The state government had earlier announced to relax night curfew from Panchami Day, Sunday, to allow people to revel during Puja days. The government hoped a lesser number of days of relaxation would mean the virus spread would be kept under control.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee also had been appealing to people to apply self restraint and follow COVID appropriate behaviour so that the spread of virus could be checked.

However, since the third day, Tritiya (Friday), the visitor footfalls at various pandals had started going up by leaps and bounds.

Pandal hoppers took to the streets with a vengeance. While at some of the top-draw pandals barricades to control visitors were displaced due to the presence of huge crowds, at others, unable to cope with the crowd surge at night and deter them, the organisers and the police had to decide to turn off the lights.

Is this unpleasant situation due to the general public’s unawareness, or was it due to lack of police-administration austerity? Questions have already been raised on the issue. The blatant disregard to government order by the public did not escape the eyes of the administrators as well as the COVID-conscious public.

On Friday, the third night, the biggest crowd surge was around the pandals in and around Gariahat, one of the most sought-after destinations for night visitors. At midnight, the crowd overflowed at Ekdalia Evergreen Durga Puja. The situation at pandals of Ballygunge Cultural and Samajsebi Sangha was no different.

Sudipta Kumar, an organiser at Deshpriya Park Puja, claimed, “I had no idea that such crowd can exist so late at night.”  Hindustan Park pandal too saw huge turnout of visitors. “Till 11.30 at night we saw massive crowds. Only past midnight, it thinned a bit. I am not allowing anyone to enter the pandal as per the COVID protocols,” said Sutapa Das.

The police too were concerned about lifting of night curfew hours just ahead of Pujas. Police feared that the decision to lift the night curfew could lead to crowds despite the Kolkata High Court order to keep the pavilions empty and have ‘No Entry Zone’ boards near the structures. The fear of the policemen came true just after Mahalaya.

A pandal hopper, trying to outsmart the ‘system’ said, “All restrictions were to come in place from Panchami. I thought of visiting all the better known pandals before the restrictions kicked in.

However, a police officer on duty at police headquarters said, “There was police surveillance on the streets all night. The common man has been made aware to obey the law. Strict measures have been taken overnight to abide by the rules.”