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Public entry stopped at West Bengal’s Burj Khalifa-themed pandal after rush

Kolkata: After being unable to prevent revellers from filling the city’s most renowned Durga Puja pandal, Bidhannagar police have cut off entry to the pandal since Friday morning. It was built at Sreebhumi in Lake Town as a replica of Dubai’s iconic skyscraper Burj Khalifa.

The move comes as the number of Covid positive cases in Kolkata passes 200 for the first time in about four months. According to doctors, there has been an increase in number of cases of Covid-19 due to the insane rush of revellers attending Puja pandals.

The decision was taken on Wednesday after multiple senior security officials and bureaucrats visited the pandal at night, including state chief secretary HK Dwivedi, deputy director general of CID Gyanwant Singh, and Bidhannagar police commissioner Supratim Sarkar. By midnight, police closed all access roads to the pandal and drove away people who were waiting for hours in VIP road’s service lane for hours to see the pandal.

Hundreds of officers were posted at the entry gates to prevent visitors’ entry by Navami morning and large iron and aluminum structures were erected at the entry gates.

Police in Bidhannagar have not responded officially to questions regarding the closure, nor do they know when it will be lifted. Puja organisers were visibly annoyed. ‘We are not in a situation to comment anything at this moment. We are organising the Puja as usual and have our volunteers deployed. But if cops prevent visitors’ entry and close the roads what can we do?’ said a club member. State fire minister Sujit Bose, the chief patron of the Puja, was unavailable for comment until the report was published.

The Puja on VIP Road has been at the center of controversy since its inception as airline pilots have complained about the laser lights invading their cockpits as they approached Kolkata airport to land. This led to a suspension of the spectacular laser lights show at the pandal. But even that didn’t stop revellers from flooding VIP Road, the service lane, and alleys leading to the pandal, worrying locals as well as other residents.

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The traffic on VIP Road moved at a snail’s pace on all Puja evenings, no matter what the police did.

Cops even turned off lights along a section of the road leading to the pandal on Wednesday to discourage revellers, but nothing helped as the number of revellers continued to grow, which ultimately led to the cops suspending visitors entry.

This replica of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, measured 145 feet tall, was constructed with 6,000 sheets of acrylic. It took over 250 workers three-and-a-half months to build the structure.


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