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KOLKATA : Ahead of Durga Puja this year, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has sent congratulatory gifts to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, a government official said on Monday.

“The gifts were channelled through the protocol wing of the premier's office," an official in the prime minister's office, who was familiar with the process, told news agency PTI.

The gifts have been sent through the Benapole-Petropole land route to be delivered to Banerjee through the Bangladesh deputy high commission officials in Kolkata.

Unconfirmed reports said the gifts included a sari, sweets and flowers.

The five-day long Durga Puja festival this year will culminate on 25 October.

Banerjee on Friday inaugurated several well-known Durga Pujas in the Kolkata city, requesting people to follow the Covid-related protocol during the festivities. Banerjee has virtually inaugurated over 70 Durga Pujas across the state. She has also visited a few pandals.

Meanwhile, the Calcutta High Court on October 19 said that the Durga Puja pandals will be no-entry zones for visitors. Only organisers will be allowed inside the pandals, the court ordered amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Durga Puja guidelines here:

1) Spacious Open Pandals with Separate Entry-Exit: Pandals shall have to be spacious and should be kept open from all sides. If in case it becomes essential to have closed ceiling the sides will have to be kept open and if the sides have to be blocked, the ceiling has to be kept open.

Floor markings and other signages should be made on entry and exit routes and assembly points to ensure compliance of physical distancing norms.

2) Compulsory masks and hand sanitizers: Use of masks shall be compulsory for all visitors visiting the pandals. To meet any exigency organisers shall make adequate arrangements for distribution of masks in close vicinity of the pandal to the visitors who inadvertently come to the pandal premises without wearing masks.

Use and availability of hand sanitizers should similarly be made compulsory in the pandal premises and neighbourhood.

3) Volunteers and decongested rituals: Puja organisers must keep volunteers in adequate numbers for ensuring compliance of the norms of physical distancing among visitors, for enforcing wearing of masks and use of hand sanitizers. Volunteers themselves should wear face masks and face shields for safety.

"Keeping in view the health safety of participants and organisers, Anjo Prayed Bitomn or Sindoor Khelo should be organised by Puja Committees in a planned manner and to the extent possible in smaller groups with spaced out timings in a staggered way," the government said in a statement.

Priests should use microphones to utter the mantra so that the sound reaches worshipers standing even far away and people do not have to assemble closely in small spaces. Devotees may be encouraged to offer Anjali with flowers brought from homes, so that flower collection points in the pandals do not become congestion-points.

4) No cultural programme programmes in/near the Puja pandal premises shall not be allowed.

5) Low-key Award lodging: Judges for various Puja award programmes should not be allowed to enter Puja premises in huge convoys and large numbers. No more than two cars of judges at a time should be allowed to visit a pandal. Ideally all vlsits for 'judging the Pubes should be virtual and physical visits should be confined to the lean hours (between 10 am and 3 pm).

5) Emphasis on electronic and social media: Electronic and social media should be used by the organisers and public authorities to make people aware to avoid large assembly and crowding on roads and near pandals. Organisers/ volunteers and police personnel on duty shall facilitate continuous movement of visitors to avoid unnecessary crowding.

7) Low-key inaugurations and immersions: Inaugurations and immersions should be low-key and minimalist events without much pomp and grandeur. Wherever possible, inauguration should be in virtual mode. In all cases, masks, sanitizers, physical distancing and no-crowd principle shall be followed.

Pre-planned allocation of time of Ghat slow to different Puja committees should be strictly adhered to. Ghats shall be properly sanitised before and during immersions with arrangements that facilitate the required physical distancing norms under the current situation. The Durga idol must be taken to the ghats directly without any stopover at any place avoiding unnecessary diversions.

8) Online Permission: Physical contacts must be avoided in the permisslon—obtaining procedures also. Online system for required permission should be arranged by the concerned authorities.

9) Spreading out the festivities over larger number of days: Adherence to the physical distancing no and other health safety measures that are required to be ensured during the current times may need spacing out the festival over larger number of days. Puja Committees should make necessary advance planning that facilitates visit to Puja pandals.

10) No Carnival: In the context of the pandemic and the need to have physical distancing norms, the State Immersion carnival shall not be held this year. In similar vein, melas and carnivals near Puja pandals shall not be allowed.

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