Ahead of Chhath puja on November 10, the BMC has issued guidelines restricting gatherings near beaches, riverbanks, and ponds to perform rituals. The civic body has allowed puja around artificial ponds at the ward level and sought help from the local police to ensure social distancing. On Tuesday, ward offices were also directed to set up health camps near these ponds and conduct a Covid test for devotees visiting the puja.
Similar protocols were followed last year, too, amid the raging Covid-19 pandemic. Chhath puja is observed with fervour in Mumbai, with lakhs of devotees thronging beaches/water bodies for rituals. “There’s always the fear of the next wave during festivals. We do not want to take any chances,” said a senior BMC official, adding that like last year, requests were rejected from various organizations to allow gatherings.
“We have instead allowed puja to be performed at artificial ponds. Groups organizing functions can seek permission from local municipal ward offices,” the official said.
BMC commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal said the civic body is reporting nearly 13,000 Covid cases on an average every month. “The situation is better but the fear of outbreak is still there. In such a situation, Chhath puja has been approved but only with strict safety protocols,” he said.