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"Following chief secretary and Health Department's SOP together," Keerthi Jalli on Ban on temporary pandals;

Cachar DC, Keerthi Jalli has issued an SOP today after Health Department announced the guidelines yesterday. Unlike the department of Health, the deputy commissioner did not hold a press conference to take questions. However, while speaking with Barak Bulletin, DC Jalli commented on what reads like a major contradiction with the Department of Health’s SOP.

The Health Minister of Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarma, while listing down a few points related to the SOP said that “There are no restrictions on Durga Puja but the committees and devotees must follow the SOP prepared by the Health Department.” He added that the pandals must be left open from all side to ensure there is no congestion inside.

To be specific, here is what the Health Department’s SOP issued yesterday reads. “Pandal should be spacious and must remain open from all sides. Pandals must keep adequate space for the arrangement of physical distancing of at least one-meter distance. Management must take measures to avoid crowding at all costs and not more than 10 to 30 persons can aggregate at a time depending on the size of the pandal.”

The SOP issued yesterday was signed by the Principal Secretary of Health, Government of Assam, Samir Kumar Sinha.

Today, the SOP issued by the Cachar District administration states, “Idol puja celebration will only be allowed in places where the puja committee has permanent concrete Sthapit Mandir or Mandap. Temporary construction of puja pandals will not be allowed.”

This arises a question, how are Puja committees supposed to keep all sides open when they are organising Puja in a Sthapit concrete mandap?

Cachar DC Keerthi Jalli responding to this question said, “We follow CS (Chief Secretary’s SOP and Health Departments SOP together. This is not to curb on anybody’s festivities. Kerala saw a 125% rise after Onam. We are trying to prevent spikes as we are averaging around 0.9% positivity rate.”

The Chief secretary’s SOP that DC Jalli is referring to was issued before Viswakarma Puja in September. That SOP had put a restriction on roadside pandals and not all temporary pandals.

When asked about his earlier SOP and if it is still valid, Chief Secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna said, “The SOP for Durga Puja is the prerogative of the Health Department and whatever they decide is to be followed.”

When the health department did not consider the earlier SOP issued by the chief secretary yesterday while issuing the new one, why is Cachar DC still referring to that? There are many questions that remain unanswered, especially when it comes to the necessity of another SOP superseding the Department of Health’s SOP.

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