Updated: 17 October 2020 11:08:26 am
The Calcutta High Court on Friday instructed Durga Puja community committees in West Bengal to spend 75 per cent of their state government grant Rs 50,000 on the procurement of Covid-19 defense equipment, and the rest on strengthening public-police relations, and the involvement of women in community policing.
Prime Minister Mamata Banerjee had announced the grant and other incentives such as reductions in permit application fees from fire brigades and power distribution companies for each of the 36,946 Durga Puja committees in the state on 24 September.
A Division of the Justice Division Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Arijit Banerjee said the grant could not be used for any other purpose and the organizers of the puja would have to submit to the authorities invoices for masks, facial cleansers, face shields and other Covid protective equipment bought with money. These purchases will then be audited.
On October 9, the head of the Center for Indian Trade Unions (CITU) Sourav Dutta challenged government decisions in the Supreme Court.
He claimed that such a grant goes against the concept of secularism and violates the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.
Duttas Bikash councilor Ranjan Bhattacharya said the court made it clear that the said amount could not be used in organizing the puja. About 75 percent of the total amount will have to be spent on the purchase of masks, toothpaste and face shields. The rest of the amount can be spent on public-police relations and the involvement of women in community policing.
During the proceedings, the state government told the court that the financial assistance was intended for secular purposes such as the purchase of Covid security equipment and the public-police connection.
The judges instructed the puja committees to submit their bills to the district administrations for audits. The state government will prepare an audit report and submit it to the court after Durga Puja’s dismissal, when the case will be heard again.
The court told the government to distribute its guidelines to all Durga Puja committees through leaflets and submit an affidavit on compliance.
Following court orders, BJP state president Dilip Ghosh threw a dig at Congress Trinamool (TMC) government, saying it secured the grant to fit a political goal. The Puja Committees never asked the state government for money. It was made for a political purpose. He intended to buy votes, Ghosh claimed.
The Trinamool Congress (TMC) said the puja committees and the state government will abide by the court order.
Of course, all puja committees will follow the court order. They are very aware of the current situation and are making efforts to maintain proper sanitation. They will buy masks and cleansers and conduct an audit later. They will present their bills as directed by the court, said state minister and senior TMC leader Chandrima Bhattacharya.
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