With Chhath Puja celebrations to be held on November 10, Delhi’s three municipal corporations — North, South and East — are gearing up for the festival with the North and South civic bodies having allocated ₹25,000 and ₹ 20,000 respectively to ward councillors for the preparation.
The funds will be used for augmenting streetlights in and around the Chhath ghats (ponds), ensuring sanitation and other facilities for devotees.
Despite a shortage in funds, East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) Mayor Shyam Sunder Aggarwal said that “all efforts will be made to ensure sanitation and Covid-19 appropriate behaviour at the 54 points of celebration under our jurisdiction”. He added that the civic body had not provided them with a “specific budget for providing facilities” at the ghats and that mobile dispensaries will be made available for devotees.
South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) standing committee chairman B.K. Oberoi said while the previous years’ celebrations were held on the banks of the Yamuna, this year, facilities were set up at ghats across different wards as per the requirement.
“The difference this time around is that all the devotees will land up at the ponds to celebrate the festival. These ponds were also set up in the previous years but the number of people will increase at these spots because celebrations have been prohibited on the banks of the Yamuna river by the DDMA. Covid-19 guidelines must be followed during the Chhath Puja celebrations and especially during the festive season because a spike in Covid cases is possible, but the fear among the public has dipped,” added Mr. Oberoi.
Previously, a controversy had erupted when the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) had prohibited Chhath Puja celebrations for the second consecutive year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Following criticism from the BJP, the DDMA allowed celebrations at designated spots, prohibiting celebrations on the banks of the Yamuna. Celebrated by communities from Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, Chhath Puja involves worshipping the sun and taking dips in a water body.
Manoj Tyagi, EMDC Leader of Opposition and AAP member, said while he was in favour of the celebrations being held, he was “concerned over the COVID-19 threat”.
He added, “Measures have to be taken to combat the spread of COVID-19; it is not over yet. Last year, we witnessed scores of people who succumbed to the virus and families were left without their earning hands. Social distancing has to be maintained at the designated spots of celebrations. The BJP has a two-faced approach, they don’t ensure COVID-19 protocols at their political rallies but extend their support to the DDMA regarding COVID-appropriate behaviour.”
Congress councillor Abhishek Dutt said he respected the sentiments of religious communities and supported the celebrations, but accused the SDMC of making “irrelevant expenditure” amidst the ongoing shortage in funds.
“Instead of spending on advertisements and other irrelevant things, the money should be spent in a proper manner. The sad part is that during the 2019 Chhath Puja, the money that was allocated for the celebrations was not spent properly and the funds were diverted. Right now, only make-shift arrangements can be made by the civic bodies, which is frankly too little and too late,” said Mr. Dutt.