Festivities under way in state

SHILLONG: After months of coping up with the COVID-19-induced situation, it was apparently uncertain then as to what would this year’s Durga puja actually look like; and now here we are witnessing it begin with enough fervour, if not exemplary.
Pandals are set; there is excitement in the air, yes, of course, unlike yesteryears, but nevertheless, the festive season is finally here!
One of the major factors that marks this year’s celebrations is the tight security put in place to ensure COVID-19 does not spread among masses. The festival is unlikely to witness heavy rush of devotees, who thronged various elegantly decorated pandals on previous occasions.
As many as 253 community Durga puja will be organised in the state with 122 in Khasi Hills, 14 in Jainta Hills and 117 in the Garo Hills region, the Central Puja Committee (CPC) informed.
The general secretary of the CPC, JL Das, said that there will be close to 70 pandals in and around Shillong including the private ones, while adding that specific instructions have been issued to all the organisers to strictly adhere to the health protocols. He also informed that many artists did not take up the work of making idols due to the pandemic.
Earlier, various puja committees held several round of meetings with the state government and it was decided that even the committees will deploy their volunteers to ensure that all protocols are followed by the visitors/devotees. With regard to immersion of idols, Das said that the entry of devotees to the immersion ghat would be restricted unlike previous years and only 15 people would be allowed from each pandal, as per the SOPs of the government.
Meanwhile, East Khasi Hills Superintendent of Police (SP-City) Vivek Syiem has stated that the police would ensure that the puja is incident-free.
The police have made elaborate security arrangements and deployment of police forces would be made strategically. “We will ensure that there is peace and security and the festival is celebrated peacefully,” Syiem said.
The CPC, in a statement, informed that it has cancelled all its annual functions – pre-Puja ‘Get-Together of Harmony & All Faith Prayer’, drum-beat competitions, competition amongst puja pandals in different categories, puja visit by VIPs and leaders of prominent NGOs ,traditional heads and other dignitaries .
The CPC also decided not to organise its valedictory function after the Festival and not to confer its ‘Sarad Sanman Awards’ -2020.

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