The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times City - Sid­hartha Roy & Jas­jeev Gand­hiok Pho­tos: THE TIMES OF IN­DIA, NEW DELHI | WED­NES­DAY, OC­TO­BER 9, 2019

New Delhi: Even from the Nehru Place metro sta­tion, you could hear the throb­bing sounds of the dhaak (drums), and as you ap­proached Astha Kunj park around half a kilo­me­tre away, pierc­ing chants of “BoloDur­gaMaiki jai!” added to Tues­day’s fes­tive din. The 200-acre park had one of the tem­po­rary ponds cre­ated for the im­mer­sion of Durga idols. Devo­tees from ar­eas in the vicin­ity such as Chit­taran­jan Park, Kalkaji and Alak­nanda gath­ered there and low­ered the idols into the wa­ter with the help of a crane.

Puja or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee mem­bers and many oth­ers said that while im­mer­sion of this sort was def­i­nitely a break from tra­di­tion, it was a step in the right di­rec­tion. “Noth­ing is more im­por­tant than the en­vi­ron­ment,” as­serted Amit Mukher­jee, mem­ber of the Alak­nanda Puja Samiti. “I re­mem­ber when we used to carry the idols with our hands into the wa­ter. Over the years, we started us­ing cranes to lower them into the river. That too was a break from tra­di­tion. So there is no rea­son why we can’t adapt to im­mer­sion in ar­ti­fi­cial ponds be­cause this is the right thing to do.”

Aam Aadmi Party MLA from Greater Kailash Sau­rabh Bharadwaj was at the site over­see­ing the ar­range­ment right from the first slot for im­mer­sion at 12 noon. “We car­ried out the shud­dhikaran of the wa­ter with Ganga jal. It was linked to the main pipe to en­sure enough wa­ter in the pond,” Bharadwaj said, adding that the flow­ers would be com­posted and the wooden frame­work of the idols dis­posed of by the South Delhi Mu­nic­i­pal Cor­po­ra­tion.

While the puja sami­tis were happy with the ar­range­ments, many com­plained about the wa­ter lev­els in the ponds. “The idols are not get­ting prop­erly sub­merged,” pointed out Amitabha Sarkar of Kalkaji DDA Flats Durga Puja Samiti. Balaram Das of Miloni Samiti too said, “The wa­ter level is re­ally low, but we still sup­port the cause of pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.” Sarkar, how­ever, was ef­fu­sive about the se­cu­rity ar­range­ments at the ar­ti­fi­cial pond.

Deepshikha Ban­er­jee, a CR Park res­i­dent, felt that im­mer­sion in a pond didn’t quite have the same feel of go­ing to the Ya­muna. “But,” she said, “this is a good step. Even in Kolkata, most idols are im­mersed in ponds, not the river.”

The eco-friendly method also of­fered new ben­e­fits. “This place is near our lo­cal­ity and we have space to park our cars. There is no dust like on the Ya­muna banks,” noted Bikash Ghosh, a Kalkaji res­i­dent. “Also, since there is no over­crowd­ing, you can bring the en­tire fam­ily with­out wor­ry­ing about their safety.” His view was cor­rob­o­rated by Satarupa Biswas, also from Kalkaji, who was happy to have been able to bring her seven-year-old daugh­ter Shiva­lika to an im­mer­sion for the first time.

Many pu­jas in CR Park such as at Co­op­er­a­tive Ground, Mela Ground and Pocket 52 had their own ponds dug in the pan­dal area. The Dak­shin Palli Durga Puja Samiti of Pocket 52, in fact, pi­o­neered the im­mer­sion of idols in tem­po­rary ponds six years ago.

Not all ar­ti­fi­cial ponds, how­ever, were as ac­com­mo­dat­ing as at Astha Kunj. At RK Pu­ram Sec­tor 12, the Saro­jini Na­gar Durga Puja Samiti strug­gled to sub­merge the idol in the shal­low wa­ter. “The pond should have been bet­ter made,” said Samir Ku­mar Das, gen­eral sec­re­tary of the samiti, though he shrugged off the in­con­ve­nience be­cause “this will help the en­vi­ron­ment”.

At Sub­hash Park in south Delhi, mem­bers of the Moti Bagh Durga Puja Samiti were dis­mayed to find that the tem­po­rary pond was al­ready crammed with im­mersed idols be­fore they reached. “There is no one from any civic agency to re­move the rem­nants of the im­mersed idols,” com­plained RK Biswas. It took the samiti mem­bers more than an hour to move the older de­bris to one end of the pit be­fore they could slip their idol into the wa­ter.

In east Delhi’s Mayur Vi­har Phase I, puja or­gan­is­ers had been al­lot­ted two hours to reach and carry out the im­mer­sion. Three pits had been dug, each over 25 feet wide and with three feet of wa­ter. How­ever civil de­fence vol­un­teers pointed out that the poly­thene sheets lin­ing the pits had ripped eas­ily and leaked wa­ter. “The DJB tankers keep re­plen­ish­ing the wa­ter, but the process takes time. This means peo­ple have to wait,” said Jaspreet Singh, a civil de­fence vol­un­teer.

This wait for wa­ter vexed some puja sami­tis. As MK Saha, chair­man, Kali Bari Mayur Vi­har Samiti, said, “The over­all ar­range­ments were good, but the govern­ment needs to get a fix on the wa­ter sup­ply. The depth of the wa­ter here was a mere 2-3 feet and we had to wait for the tankers for more wa­ter.”

Af­ter the mon­i­tor­ing com­mit­tee ex­press­ing con­cern ear­lier this year at the Ya­muna’s wa­ter be­ing poi­soned by idols, the Na­tional Green Tri­bunal di­rected the city au­thor­i­ties to stop im­mer­sion in the river. Delhi govern­ment re­sponded by cre­at­ing the ar­ti­fi­cial ponds and al­lot­ting time and place to each puja samiti.

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