Accusations of negligence and lack of adequate arrangements flew thick and fast on Monday as lakhs of residents in the Capital observed the first day of Chhath Puja.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said the Delhi Government was the “only one in the country to have earmarked 800 ghats for the puja” even as North East Delhi BJP MP Manoj Tiwari argued that devotees were forced to take a dip in toxic Yamuna water because of lack of proper arrangements by the city government.
Revolving around the cultural sensitivities of Delhi’s Purvanchali population — which numbers upwards of 20 lakh — the observance of Chhath Puja first became a political hot potato when the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) denied approval to the residents to perform the rituals at public places due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The issue snowballed into a full-blown controversy after the DDMA allowed the devotees to perform the puja at public places but prohibited them from doing so on the banks of the Yamuna where it has traditionally been observed for decades.
“Despite all the COVID-19 hurdles, the Delhi Government had decided to celebrate the Chhath Puja in a grand manner. The way the celebrations started today, I can certainly say that our efforts for a grand celebration have borne fruit,” Mr. Sisodia said.
“We all very well remember that before the Kejriwal Government was formed in 2015, barely 80-90 Chhath ghats were set up by the previous Governments. Only a select few from BJP and Congress could use these ghats. Today, there are over 800 Chhath ghats spread across Delhi,” the Deputy Chief Minister said.
However, Mr. Tiwari, who visited the locations where the puja was allowed by the authorities, accused the Delhi Government of neglecting not just the arrangements for the festival but also the health of devotees who were forced to take a dip in toxic foam.
He added that the abysmal condition of the Yamuna was fit to be taken suo motu cognisance by the Supreme Court to dismiss the Delhi Government for “lying” regarding its condition and promising to clean it over the last seven years.
“Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is not only playing with the cultural feelings of the people but also their health. Water from drains being allowed to fall into the river has completely choked it,” he said after speaking to devotees at a Chhath ghat in Kalindi Kunj.
“I have no words; this is what all the promises regarding the cleanliness of the Yamuna and improving its condition over the last seven years have culminated into. The Supreme Court should take cognisance of these lies and dismiss the Kejriwal Government,” he demanded.