As Kolkata experiences withdrawal symptoms with the end of Durga Puja celebrations, there is one last thing it can look forward to. The city’s most beloved goddess has decided to stay another day.
Thirty-eight of this year’s award-winning idols will be paraded down Red Road on Friday, offering a final glance before immersion. The move, a first, was announced by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who also put up a post inviting the public on her Facebook page late on Thursday.
Tight security arrangements have been made as authorities are expecting a massive turnout which will include those who missed the pujas, among them the countless police officers and government officials who were working round the clock when the festival was in full swing.
A senior information and cultural affairs official said several foreigners were also expected to attend. Idols of Suruchi Sangha, Chetla Agrani, Sreebhumi, College Square, Kumartuli and Ekdalia Evergreen Club, among others, will be featured in the parade. As per the CM’s Facebook post, the organisers “have won Biswa Bangla and various other awards”.
Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar held a meeting with the puja committees participating in the parade at the conference room of the Police Training School (PTS) on Thursday, where he briefed them about the arrangements.
The Red Road has been decked up in blue and white, ready for the parade, which will take place from 5 pm to 8 pm, beginning at the southern gate of Fort William and continuing till Eden Gardens. Seating arrangements have been made for over 10,000 people including Mamata Banerjee and most of her Cabinet ministers. While there will be a section for VIPs, the public will get seats on a first-come-first-serve basis. Viewers have been advised to take their seats at 2.30 pm. Four giant screens will telecast the event live along with two commentators. The bigger pujas are allowed a maximum of five tableaux, while the smaller ones will be allowed three.
Police sources said that around 1,500 personnel will be deployed at the parade. There will also be four quick response teams, eight temporary watch towers, six assistance booths, nine officers of the DC level along with senior police officers stationed at the site. Several CCTV cameras have also been installed and 10 ambulances will be kept on standby.
Traffic movement will also be altered to avoid congestion around the venue. At a press briefing on Thursday, Kumar said that Kidderpore Road from Hastings Crossing to Lovers Lane will be closed to all vehicular traffic from 2 pm till the end of the programme.
“Spectators coming on foot have been advised to move along AJC Bose Road, Chowringhee Road, Outram Road, Mayo Road or RR Avenue instead of Kidderpore Road. Those coming by trams and buses will have to alight either at Esplanade or Park Street and then proceed towards the public enclosures along the specified roads,” he said.
Subrata Mukherjee, panchayat minister and organiser of the Ekdalia Evergreen Club puja, whose idol will be part of the parade, said, “Over the last two days, pandal-hopping plans of many people were spoiled due to rains. This will be an opportunity for them to see what they missed.”
A police officer who did not wish to be named, said, “Many of our officers were on bandobast duty during the festival, working round the clock. This will be a chance for them and their families to enjoy the pujas.”
Mamata’s Facebook post also stated that if the event was a success, it would be organised every year on a “much bigger scale”.