New Delhi: The Calcutta High Court on Thursday sought to know from the West Bengal government its justification for doling out Rs 50,000 to community Durga pujas, amid the austerity measures being pursued by the state in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Also Read - West Bengal: Durgapur Barrage Lock Gate Damaged, Triggers Flood Panic in Villages

Hearing a petition challenging the government’s decision to disburse Rs 50,000 to community Durga pujas, a division bench comprising justices Sanjib Banerjee and Arijit Banerjee also enquired if financial aid was being given for other festivals, such as Eid. Also Read - After Odisha, Rare Bright Yellow Turtle Found In West Bengal; Pictures Stun The Internet

It further asked the state whether any guideline has been laid down for such expenditure as it is public money that is being doled out as grant to the puja organisers. Also Read - Kolkata's FD Block Durga Puja Pandal Gutted in Massive Fire Ahead of Idol Immersion

The state government, on its part, told the court that grant was meant for raising public awareness on COVID-19 control, purchase of sanitisers and masks.

Asserting that accounts of expenditure have to be well maintained, the bench suggested that Advocate General Kishore Dutta, who represents the state, and senior counsel Bikash Bhattacharya, appearing for the petitioner, hold a conference on all such matters, and inform the court of its outcome on Friday, when the case would be taken up for hearing again.

The court also asked whether any blueprint for crowd control during Durga Puja — which is barely a week away — have been prepared by the government to prevent the spread of the viral disease.

The petition, challenging the grant of Rs 50,000 and other benefits — such as discounts on application fees for permissions from Fire Brigade and electric supply boards — to thousands of community Durga Pujas, was filed by Sourav Dutta, a Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) leader.

Dutta claimed that the government’s decision was not in tune with the concept of secularism in India, and hurts the fundamental rights provided in the Constitution.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had on September 24 announced a grant of Rs 50,000, among other doles, for each of the state’s puja committees.