West Bengal government appeals to people to exercise restraint and refrain from bursting crackers during the Deepavali and Kali Puja celebrations

Published : November 04, 2020 12:06 IST

Outside the pandal on the first day of Durga Puja festival, in Kolkata on October 22. Photo: RANITA ROY/REUTERS

The West Bengal government has appealed to the people of the State to avoid bursting crackers and fireworks during Kali Puja and Deepavali festivals this year as the resulting increase in pollution levels can be dangerous at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is raging. Chief Secretary Alapan Bandopandhyay said at a press conference on November 3: “There are many patients with comorbidities and respiratory problems…. We all know that air pollution can be very dangerous for them. While there remains a complete ban on some firecrackers imposed by Supreme Court and other regulatory bodies, we urge everyone not to burst or light even those firecrackers that are permissible.” This, he said, was an “appeal” by the State government and not a ban.

The COVID-19 scenario in the State continues to remain grim, with nearly 4,000 new cases coming up on a daily basis and more than 50 people falling victim to the disease every day. As of November 3, a total of 3,85,589 people have tested positive in the State and 7,069 people have died.

The government has also urged the people to exercise restraint in their celebrations of Kali Puja and Deepavali, as they had done during the recently concluded Durga Puja. Alapan Bandopadhyay said that as in the case of Durga Puja, the Kali Puja pandals must also be open on all sides and COVID-19 protocols such as the wearing of masks and the provision of hand sanitisers must be strictly adhered to.

The government’s appeal has come within days of doctors writing to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee requesting her to ensure that this year no crackers and fireworks are burst during Diwali and Kali Puja celebrations. In a letter to the Chief Minister, the Joint Platform of Doctors (JPD) had written: “The poisonous gas that is emitted from crackers and fireworks is particularly dangerous for people who are suffering from COVID and are in hospital and in quarantine…. chemicals from fire-crackers that pollute the air can exacerbate breathing problems and coughing and even cause death.”

While doctors have welcomed the government’s “appeal”, they are skeptical about its impact. Punyabrata Gun, convenor of JPD told Frontline, “We do not think this request alone will suffice. The government has to take measures to implement it. While the appeal coming from the State government is certainly a positive step, it is not sufficient.”

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