SHILLONG, September 26: In light of the impending puja celebrations, the Home Department has issued an SOP, which outlines various generic precautionary measures to be adopted while observing the festival. The following protocol enlisted under different categories has been prepared after due consultation with Central Puja Committee (CPC) to prevent any spread of COVID-19.
1. Generic Preventive Measures
Persons above 65 years, persons with comorbities, pregnant women and children are advised to stay at home. However, persons who are fully vaccinated may visit puja pandals. In the interest of safety, all priests/CPC members/drummers/helpers/volunteers are fully vaccinated.
The generic preventive measures to be observed by all visitors/workers include:
i. All just maintain a physical distance of 5m as much as possible
ii. Use of face masks is mandatory
iii. Practice of washing of hands with soap and/or frequent hand sanitising is advised, whichever feasible
iv. Respiratory protocol to be strictly followed. This involves strict practice of covering one’s mouth and nose while sneezing/coughing with tissue/handkerchief and responsible disposing of the same.
v. Self-monitoring of health, and in case of any illness to be informed to nearest State or District Helpline
vi. Spitting to be strictly prohibited
vii. Installation and use of Aarogya Setu is advised.
ThePuja Committees will inform the Deputy Commissioner or SDO (Civil) on the puja pandal r9 be erected. The following is to be followed –
i. Pandals may be allowed to be erected as per requirement if the concerned puja committee. However, no panda, will. E erected on PWD roads. The committees will see that pandals are to be constructed keeping in mind the expected number of visitors.
ii. Pandals are to be me or open to the extent possible to encourage cross-ventilation. Mandira where permanent structures are available may remain as they are.
iii. Barricades are to be constructed to regulate entry and exit into the pandals. No welcome gate will be erected on PWD roads. CCTV will be have to be installed in and around pandal areas/vicinities.
iv. As paper if the safety measures for the purpose of the celebrations, it is mandatory to keep first aid and fire preventive equipment, including fire extinguishers and sand buckets in all pandals.
v. Adequate lighting facilities in the approach roads to the pandals are required to be installed by the Puja Committee concerned.
vi. Entrance to have mandatory hand hygiene (sanitising dispensers) or hand washing and optional thermal screening provisions.
3. Regulation of Movement of Visitors/Devotees
All puja committees to prepare micro-plan to ensure that there are no large gatherings of devotees in the pandals keeping in mind the following points –
i. Separate entry and exit points to be made. Movement of devotes to be staggered and the number of visitors at any point shall not exceed 50% capacity of the pandal at any point. Sufficient volunteers will be deputed to ensure the same.
ii. Volunteers to be appropriately stationed to ensure social-distancing and wearing of masks
iii. Adequate supplies of sanitisers and physical distancing marking to bring ensured.
iv. As far as practicable, thermal screening at the entrance point to be undertaken.
v. Pre-identification of space in each pandal for isolation of suspected cases, vehicle arrangements along with drivers to be in place.
vi. People are encouraged not to venture out of their localities/areas. CPC may cause wide awareness on restricting inter-locality movement.
vii. Elderly people/ persons with co-morbidities/pregnant women and children are advised to stay at home.
viii. Positive persons/High risk contacts/anyone from containment zones are not allowed to visit puja pandals or venture out at this time. Legal action will be taken against violators.
ix. Symptomatic persons are not allowed to visit puja pandals.
x. DM&HO May depute Medical Officers to assist magistrates and Police as Sector Health Officers in each sector.
The puja committees have decided to perform inky the rituals of the Puja as per Hindu Almanac schedule-
i. All idols should be in one frame and maximum height should exceed five feet. Devotees will not be allowed to touch idols.
ii. Puja and offerings of Anjali will be regulated by the organisers
iii. Offerings will be in phases, no sitting down and partaking in distribution of Prasad. Only packed dry Prasad May be distributed among devotees and visitors.
iv. There will be no lunch or serving of cooked food. Packed food distribution May be allowed.
5. Immersion of Idols
i. The puja committees shall in consultation with Deputy Commissioner or SDO(Civil) concerned decide on the schedule and number of puja committees allowed for immersion of idols at the Immersion Ghat.
ii. No foot procession will be allowed throughout the route of immersion of idols.
iii. For puja committee idols a maximum of 20 members will be allowed with two lights vehicles 1 heavy/medium vehicle (preferably a pickup van) to accompany the idol to the immersion ghat.
iv. For puja committees without idols, only 9 members along with two light vehicles may be allowed.
v. Respective puja committees will selected by name and identification cards members who will be in the vehicles to avoid confusion. All persons lifting idols to be briefed on Covid protocols.
vi. The movement chart shall be prepared in consultation with the Superintendent of Police or SDPO concerned and permission for use of vehicle on the immersion day is to be obtained from the same.
vii. All puja committees to strictly adhere to the movement schedule so there is no congestion at any point. Senior Magistrates to ensure that they move out within stipulated time.
viii. The immersion should be completed by 4:00 pm. Instructions to be issued to all pandals to ensure prior arrangements and avoid unnecessary delay in movement.
ix. On lookers/bystanders should not be allowed during immersion. Barricades should be erected to prevent this.
x. Immersion of idols is strictly prohibited in water bodies other than designated immersion ghats, where arrangements are environment friendly
xi. Guidelines issued by CPCB/MSPCB for immersion of idols as per environmental norms must be strictly followed.
6. Maintenance of Cleanliness
i. The puja committee should be ensure maintenance of cleanliness in all pandals at all times during and after celebrations
ii. The puja committees should ensure proper segregation of waste at source in the pandals. Help desks with volunteers to be assigned for the same
iii. The puja committees should follow guidelines of the Central Pollution Control Board and Meghalaya Pollution Control Board
iv. The immersion ghat should be cleaned up 1 day before and after the celebrations
7. Sandhi Puja
sandhu puja is permitted on the 13th October between 10:30 pm to 12:30 am together with symbolic drum beating for a few minutes.
8. General guidelines
i. All puja activities should conclude by 10:00 pm (subject to relaxation of curfew timings)
ii. No live sports, games and cultural functions will be allowed to be organised during the puja day celebrations
iii. Pandals will be kept simple with minimum embellishments and lighting
iv. In the interest of safety, it is desirable that all priests/volunteers/helpers/drummers/CPC members are vaccinated
v. Priests/helpers/Drummers from outside the state shall be expected to strictly follow the COVID-19 protocols in force and entry SOP issued by the State government
vi. Micro- planning at the Sectoral and Puja Committee level will have to be mandatorily taken up along with Sector Magistrate, Police and Health Officials.