In a very generous first, 28,000 Durga Puja committees across Bengal will get a grant of Rs. 10,000 each this festive season “for community development programmes,” Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Monday.
Of 28,000 Pujas, 3,000 are held in Kolkata, the rest in the districts. The total expenditure for 28,000 Pujas in the state will be Rs. 28 crore.
But critics are already questioning the largesse at a time when she herself claims the state is strapped for cash.
“She is trying to balance Imam bhata,” said a tweet by a social media user. “Imam Bhata” is the stipend Ms Banerjee had announced for Imams and muezzins at mosques soon after coming to power in 2011. The move had drawn the charge of minority appeasement and was stopped by court.
At a meeting with representatives of Durga Puja organising committees in Kolkata on Monday, Ms Banerjee also announced plans for the second edition of the ‘Bishorjon Carnival’.
“Durga Pujo immersions will be held from October 19 to 22. We will organise Durga Pujo Bishorjon Carnival at Red Road on October 23 at 4 PM. Last year, 55 clubs participated, this year, 75 clubs will participate,” she said.
Last year, because Bishorjon or the date for immersion of the idols coincided with Muharram, the immersion had been stopped on one day – something for which Mamata Banerjee had been criticised, again for minority appeasement.
But on Monday, Ms Banerjee took the issue up head on. “Do not pay heed to inciting propaganda. One communal political party wants to polarise people on religious lines,” she said.
“Some people make tall claims. Can they organise Bakr-Eid and Durga Puja at the same time? No. Last year we had to stop Bishorjon for one day because of Muharram, and because of that a lot of propaganda was carried out on social media.
“Few days ago, a fake news was spread that we are prohibiting Durga Pujo. Can you believe it? Will you believe if I told you that Eid and Christmas have been banned? These are tactics to spread communal discord. It is easy to incite riots, but not easy to douse the fire. We will not allow anyone to play with fire,” she added.
Ms Banerjee has penned a song on the theme ‘Jaago Durga’ for the Pujas which begin on October 16 this year.