Reversing its earlier decision, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) has allowed for public celebration of the Chhat Puja at designated places in the national capital on November 10, after growing demand from all major political parties, including the opposition BJP and Congress and the ruling AAP.
Making the announcement, Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said, “Today, in the DDMA meeting, a decision was taken to give the go-ahead for Chhat Puja in Delhi along with very strict protocols and at designated places decided by the government.”
Sisodia also said that there was a consensus amongst experts in the DDMA meeting that the Covid-19 pandemic was very much under control in Delhi. However, he said there was a need to stay cautious given some states in India and countries across the world were still coping with rising cases of the novel coronavirus. Sisodia also appealed to residents of Delhi to observe Chhat puja carefully, without throwing caution to the winds.
The BJP and the Congress had targeted the AAP government, and particularly chief minister Arvind Kejriwal after the DDMA, chaired by Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, had prohibited public celebrations of Chhat Puja. The issue snowballed into a major political slugfest, leading to protests by the opposition parties on the streets. BJP MP Manoj Tewari had accused AAP of not honouring the sentiment of the Hindus.
On October 12, Sisodia had then written to Union health minister Mansukh Mandavia requesting for issuance of guidelines for the celebration of Chhat. Subsequently, on October 14, Kejriwal wrote to Lieutenant Governor Baijal arguing that as Covid cases were under control for the past three months, a meeting of the DDMA be called and Chhat celebrations be allowed. Kejriwal also pointed out that many neighbouring states, such as Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, had already allowed celebrations.
A popular festival amongst Purvanchalis, Chhat Puja is celebrated along ghats of rivers, ponds and other water bodies. In the year 2020, the DDMA had banned public celebrations, which had led to similar protests. However, last year, the government stuck to the ban.
Interestingly, while Chhat puja has been permitted at designated sites with strict adherence to Covid appropriate behaviour, it has not been allowed on the banks of the Yamuna. The DDMA has also allowed for celebrations of Diwali in compliance with Covid appropriate behaviour.