Cuttack: While serious resentment brews among the people of Cuttack over the Odisha Government’s restrictions on the size of the Durga puja idols within 4 feet, the elders of the millennium city have decided to approach Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik while opposition BJP is prepared to organize a 12-hour bandh in the state’s main commercial hub on Monday.
Odisha Government’s recent denial of the relaxation on the height of the Durga Puja idols, has also sparked a political slugfest in the state. While the ruling BJD is vertically divided over the issue, the Opposition BJP and Congress have thrown their weight behind the people who demand withdrawal of the restrictions.
Special Relief Commissioner Pradeep Jena on Friday announced that the state government’s August 9 decision to restrict the height of Durga idols within four feet in view of the prevailing COVID-19 situation, will not be withdrawn in the interest of public health.
The State Government had a meeting with the Puja Committees of Cuttack on September 7 after Assembly Speaker Surjya Narayan Patro asked the administration to reconsider the row over the height of the Durga Puja idols.
Accordingly, Chief Secretary S C Mohapatra and SRC Pradeep Jena held discussions with the elders of Cuttack puja committees and peace committees. However, the government’s denial has sparked a serious resentment in Cuttack,
The development has its impact on the ruling BJD too. Cuttack’s 6-time BJD MP Bhartuhari Mahtab, while attending a puja committee meeting in Cuttack, wondered how the government can avoid spread of the infection if the height is limited within 4 feet.
“I do not see any reason behind the argument that raising the idol size by another 2 or 2.5 feet will help spread the infection. It’s laughable,” the veteran Parliamentarian, who has been adjudged with the Sansad Ratna Award for the year 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, said.
However, senior BJD leader and former MLA Debashis Samantray ridiculed Mr.Mahtab and said: “Where was the MP all along with the issue is being debated since a long time? He was not seen anywhere. But suddenly he attended a meeting and kept his views. The decision is taken for the entire state and not alone for Cuttack in view of the pandemic.”
Incidentally, when the Chief Secretary and SRC held discussion with the Puja Committees of Cuttack on September 7, all the local BJD MLAs and ex-MLAs were invited, barring Mahtab, a sitting MP, sources said adding that even a young MLA from outside Cuttack district also attended the consultation held at the Lok Sevak Bhavan here.
However, keeping in view the local sentiments, the BJP has called a 12 hour Cuttack bandh from 6 AM to 6 PM on Monday. “Our bandh is called protesting the government’s restriction on the Duga Puja idol size within 4 feet and insult to the city elders. The government has insulted the elders by inviting them to the meeting and not addressing their grievances,” former minister and senior BJP leader Samir Dey said.
“All the business and commercial establishments in the city will remain closed tomorrow during the Bandh. We appeal to the residents of Cuttack to support the Bandh which has been called against the State government that did not pay any heed to the demands of the puja committees and its members; and, it is no less than an insult,” Dey told reporters.
The BJP leader said essential services are kept out of the Bandh purview.
Meanwhile, several Durga puja committees have decided to approach Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to seek relaxation on Durga idol height restriction. The puja committees and the Cuttack city peace committee on Saturday decided to approach the chief minister and seek his personal intervention on the restriction on the height of Duga idols.
The committees unanimously decided that they will make an appeal to the chief minister by September 16 to “reconsider” the decision on the height of Durga idols.
“We expect a reply from the chief minister by September 17. The committees will meet again on September 17 to decide the next course of action,” they said.
Barabati-Cuttack Congress MLA Mohammad Moqim also demanded withdrawal of the restriction on the height of the idols. “This is unfortunate that the chief secretary and SRC did not take any decision on the September 7 meeting and sought two day’s time. Later, the government upheld the earlier guidelines without reconsidering the pleas of the puja committees,” he said.
Balu Bazaar Puja Committee, one of the oldest bodies organizing the Durga Puja, has planned to move the Orissa High Court challenging the restrictions of the state government. “We have been worshipping the 8 feet height Durga idol since 1914 and it is not possible to change the tradition, ” said its president Suryakant Sanganeria