Due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, the idol immersion in the Ichamati River is expected to be a low key affair. Ichamati River is located around seventy kilometres east of Kolkata in the adjoining North 24 Parganas district. The area used to attract numerous travellers from India as well as the neighbouring country Bangladesh during the idol immersion. However, this year it will be a muted affair due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is only the local puja committee that keeps up with the tradition in the river, which forms a natural boundary between the two countries. The people from both India and Bangladesh gather on opposite banks of the river to witness the immersion of dozens of idols every year on the occasion of Bijoya Dashami.
Somnath Mukherjee, chairman of the Taki Municipality of North 24 Parganas, said, “This year, there is no demand for immersion in the river because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, around a dozen idols were immersed in the middle of the river. We have received an application from a single puja committee.”
The members of the Durga Puja Committee of Taki are expected to load the idols on country boats. They will then take them to the middle of the river to complete the process of immersion. The Border Security Force (BSF) and the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) are going to patrol the river on speed boats. They will also make a virtual line of control with the help of ropes in an attempt to prevent infiltration from either of the countries.
A police official said, “A few hundred boats, carrying thousands of visitors, would take to the river to watch the immersion of idols every year. However, this year, 50-odd visitors’ boats have requested permission. Each boat, depending on its size, will be allowed a maximum of 15 and 20 people, respectively.”
The district has recorded around 71,000 COVID-19 cases. Kolkata tops the chart of infections in the state of Bengal. An official from the district administration said, “Restrictions have been enforced regarding the number of visitors who will be allowed to take a ride on the boat. Precautionary measures like face masks and hand sanitizers have been made mandatory. Barricades have also been put up in an attempt to maintain social distancing among the various travellers. A fair which used to be organized on the sidelines of the immersion have been cancelled this year.”