Odisha

‘Puja Chanda’ Or Extortion?

**Bhubaneswar**: Durga Puja might be a reason for celebrations for many, but at the same time it’s a headache for some in the Capital City. Despite strict guidelines set by the Commissionerate Police against forcible collection of ‘çhanda’ (donations), some committee members have thrown all such restrictions into the winds.

Some members of the Satyanagar Durga Puja Committee in the city on October 5 had entered into a jewellery shop here and allegedly abused and thrashed the staff when they didn’t pay the ‘chanda’.

According to reports, around 10 to 12 members of the puja committee had entered into the Subash Jewellery, located under Kharvel Nagar police limits, and started abusing their staff while about 50 persons were standing in front of the shop seeing the act.

Speaking about the incident to Ommcom News, Purnima Sahoo, owner of the jewellery shop, said: “Around 10 to 12 persons on October 5 entered into our shop and demanded Rs 5,000 as Durga puja chanda and when our staff told them our owner takes a call on this, they abused and thrashed our sales persons. When I reached at the shop, they also tried to thrash me and misbehaved with my daughter. When these persons were misbehaving with our staff inside, around 50 persons were standing outside the shop.”

Sahoo also alleged that though they had lodged police complaint after the incident, the cops haven’t taken any action against the criminals.
Extortion in the name of ‘chanda’ for puja celebrations in the city is a torture to the businessmen, bus owners and even poor auto-rickshaw operators suffer alike every year during Durga Puja.

Commenting the growing menace, the Twin City Police Commissioner Y.B. Khurania said, “Forcible collection of ‘chanda’ (donations) is not permitted and those who are resorting to such practices will be punished. We have no tolerance or zero tolerance on extortion.”

Bhubaneswar DCP Satyabrata Bhoi also echoed the views of Police Commissioner and said strong action would be taken against the persons involved in such incidents.

When asked about the October 5 incident, the DCP said: “A case has already been registered with us in this connection and we have got the CCTV footage of the incident. We will soon take strong action against the culprits.”

Several businessmen in the city are now feeling the heat and are frightened after this incident and urged the police to act as early as possible if they want to end this menace.

The smaller shops allege that puja committees extort money from them in the name of collecting donation. Some even are directly threatening businessmen by saying you have to pay as you are doing business at chhak or main market.

“They (chanda collection agents) are demanding Rs 2,000, Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 but it’s a huge amount for us. We want to donate as per our capability,” said Bapi, a grocery shop owner in the city.

For shopkeepers and businessmen, the ordeal starts from Ganesh Puja and continue till Diwali. And, the menace is at its peak just before Durga Puja as pandal committees are on the prowl collecting chanda (donation) from them.

Several new Durga Puja committees have come up in the capital over the past few years and their members can be seen moving from one shop to another these days.

If this is the happening in the Capital City, what could be the condition in other cities where Durga Pujas being celebrated in a big way.
We all know that ‘chanda’(donations) are given on one’s capability and willingness and no one should collect it forcefully or by threatening in the name of GOD or GODDESS.

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