Revellers and organisers alike aren’t really concerned about crime in and around pandals. Neither are they worried about traffic management and security, something their city counterparts lose sleep over. What sends shivers down their spines is the possibility of elephants raiding the pandals.
To ward off such an eventuality, the forest department and organisers of 23 pujas across Purulia’s Bagmundi and Jhalda subdivisions have jointly decided to position hulla parties close to these pandals – 17 in Bagmundi and six in Jhalda.
Forest officials and puja organizers are worried because a herd of 18 elephants from Hazaribagh, Bihar is roaming the Hesla forest in Bagmundi while the presence of a lone tusker has been reported from Matha, also in Bagmundi. The pandals are located at Pushli, Hesla and Mathari in Jhalda and Kalimati, Purda, Khirabera and Mathe in Bagmundi.
At each of the 23 pandals, the forest department has kept a hulla party on standby. These teams have been armed with rejected tyres, mobile oil and fire torches (moshals). Besides, forest protection committees in Bagmundi and Jhalda will conduct regular patrols during the pujas and send out bulk SMSs to the hulla parties in case they spot any movement of elephants in their areas.
Purulia ADFO Raju Ray said, “We have taken some special steps to prevent the jumbos from damaging pandals during the four-day festival. Hulla parties will be on standby near the pandals.” Kalimati Sarbojonin Puja commitee secretary Atit Boron Tewari said, “This year, we are relaxed as a hulla party will be there to help us.”