GUWAHATI: The second wave of COVID-19 has robbed the Rongali Bihu of its gaiety this year too. The Bihu celebrations had to be skipped last year because of the outbreak of the same virus. This year the celebration is a low-key affair.
The number of visitors in most of the Bihutolis is much less when compared to bygone years. Ahead of the festival, the State Health Department on April 9, 2021 issued SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) for Bihu celebrations. The SOPs created a debate among the government and the Bihu committees.
The Bihu committees were strictly directed to adhere to COVID-19 protocols like the use of masks, thermal test, sanitization of Bihutolis etc. Most of the Bihu committees across the State demanded certain relaxations in the SOPs. In Guwahati, most of the Bihu programmes were completed before mid-night.
"The historic Latasil Bihu programme didn't witness visitors like previous years. We are trying to wrap the programmes by 11 pm," said adviser of Guwahati Bihu Sanmilani Kailash Sarma, while talking to The Sentinel.
"The Bihu committees never stated that they will not follow the SOPs. We demanded the Health Department to issue a revised SOP over some points. The programmes are being held according to the SOPs. However, the government should have taken the responsibility to conduct temperature checks, provide face masks etc," said Sodou Asom Bihu Sanmilani Samanway Rakshi Samiti general secretary Pranab Goswami.
Goswami underlined that around 60 per cent of the visitors wear face masks. "However, we do conduct thermal test as much as possible," he said.
"The Bihu committees are continuously appealing to the people to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour. Most of the programmes are being wrapped up between 11 pm and midnight. It's unfortunate that the Health Minister threatened to lodge FIRs against Bihu committees and artistes for violation of the SOPs," Goswami added.