The announcement was made by Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) P K Jena after the government reviewed the order following an order of the assembly Speaker SN Patro.
“We are sorry to announce that the height of Durga idols will have to be within 4 feet. It is not possible to withdraw the August 9 guideline keeping in view the public health,” Jena said.
Patro on September 7 asked the state government to reconsider the decision after a section of Congress MLAs raised the issue in the assembly and demanded that the restrictions on the height of the idols be withdrawn.
Puja organisers also protested against the curb and the state administration on Wednesday said a decision on it will be taken in two days.
Chief Secretary SC Mohapatra had then met a delegation of the puja committees of Cuttack in presence of the SRC and several MLAs of the ruling BJD.
The opposition BJP has given a call for Cuttack bandh on September 13 demanding lifting of the restriction on the height of Durga idols.
Stating that the restrictions are made with an objective to avoid a possible third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and stop the spread of coronavirus among people, Jena sought the cooperation of people, particularly the puja committees in this regard.
“We have to make sacrifices and ensure that the public health is in no way impacted due to our behaviour. We apologise to the people and seek their cooperation for conduct of a congregation-less festival including Durga puja,” Jena said.
He said the people of Puri made sacrifices during the Ratha Jatra festival in July.
“Local residences did not open their doors and windows as per the suggestion of the government. That helped conduct a smooth Ratha Jatra (without participation of the public) and it had no adverse impact," Jena said.
Justifying the state government’s stand, the SRC said, “All of us should learn a lesson from the impact of the Kumbha Mela in Uttar Pradesh and Onam in Kerala. In both the festivals, relaxations led to mass infection. After Onam, about 30,000 people were infected in Kerala. We should not take any risk.”
He pointed out that the Ganesh Puja in Maharashtra and other places in the country is also being held under several restrictions. The idol size of Ganesh is also restricted to 4 feet in Maharashtra.
“Therefore, we appeal to the people of Odisha to co-operate the government and ensure conduct of a smooth devotee less festivals,” he said.
Jena said the some countries including USA have experienced the Third Wave of the infection and there is every possibility that it will hit India.
He also urged the people of Odisha to celebrate ‘Nuakhai’ festival on Saturday by following the COVID appropriate behaviour. He requested people not to overcrowd temples during the festive period.
Noting that Odisha is presently reporting about 600 to 1000 new COVID-19 infections daily, Jena said the second wave of the pandemic is still there.
In its August 9 guideline, the state government said, “It is hereby directed that congregations for celebration of Ganesh Puja, Durga Puja, Laxmi Puja, Kali Puja and other similar festivals shall not be allowed in public throughout the State. However, religious rituals in churches/ temples/ mosques/ places of worship will continue as usual with a limited number of persons with strict adherence to Covid protocols.” PTI AAM