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Compulsory COVID tests on Panchami and Dashami; Purohits in Hailakandi warns, "Will boycott Puja"

Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Assam has issued a standard operating procedure that lists down a set of guidelines. The SOP makes it compulsory for Puja committees, priests, and volunteers to undergo COVID tests on the day of Panchami and after Dashami.

The Hailakandi Purohit Mandali in Hailakandi that represents approximately 100 priests has organised a protest in the district demanding abolition of the clause. “If the priest tests positive on Panchami he and the puja committee will be in trouble. The idea of testing on the eve of Durga Puja is asking for trouble. That is why we have decided to demonstrate today,” said Ranjan Kumar Bhattacharjee, secretary of the Hailakandi District Purohit Mandali.

He informed that the Mandali will submit a memorandum tomorrow. “We will appeal to the deputy commissioner of Hailakandi to remove this clause,” said Bhattacharjee.

“If they do not remove it, we are making it clear that we will boycott Durga Puja,” warned Bhattacharjee.

On the other hand, today, the deputy commissioner of Hailakandi, Megh Nidhi Dahal has held a meeting to discuss the upcoming Durga Puja. After the meeting, through a media statement, Dahal said that in view of the COVID pandemic situation, everyone has to “religiously follow the guidelines set by the government for the Durga Puja to contain the disease.”

When reached out to the Department of Health, a senior officer said that the department thought a lot before listing down the guidelines. “All of us need to understand that we are in a difficult time. Everyone is in discomfort. We understand that the priests are hesitating, but we need to realise the risk involved,” said the senior officer.

Adding, “The Health Department, after due deliberation, came to the conclusion that priests and volunteers are like to come in contact with everyone. They will distribute Prasad, organise Anjali and Arati and that is why it is important to get them tested. We cannot ignore COVID nor can we go easy on our preparation,” the officer added.

However, the district administrations have been Comgiven the authority to make subtle changes after considering the requirement in their respective districts. After the priests meet DC Dahal tomorrow, what he decides remains to be seen.

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