Nobel laureate economist Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee has backed the West Bengal governments decision to support Durga puja committees of the state with 50,000 each, saying that organisers need the additional amount to adopt COVID-19 safety protocols.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had announced on September 24 the 50,000 grant for each of the 36,946 community Durga Puja committees in the state in COVID-19 time. It has attracted criticism from several quarters and was also challenged in the Calcutta High Court.

She, however, found support from the economist who won the Nobel prize in 2019.

“It is not a bad decision keeping in mind the additional expenditure by puja committees to implement safety measures,” he said while replying to a question during an interview to vernacular news channel ABP Ananda.

The state government had told the court that the grant is for “secular purposes” like buying Covid safety equipment and for public-police bonding. However, the high court on Monday ordered that all Durga Puja pandals across the state be declared no-entry zones to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee also said he was worried that gathering of a large number of people to visit pandals may increase COVID-19 cases in the state, and urged people to be responsible for the sake of safety.

He also expressed hope that Indian economy may return to normalcy to a great extent in a years time overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic induced slowdown.

“The pandemic has impacted the economy badly and safety from the infection is also important. However, I think in a years time we will be able to recoup to a great extent helping an improved job market,” Banerjee said replying to a query on job losses during the crisis.

Banerjee said he was not averse to resumption of local train services as trains have a better cross-ventilation system compared to that in buses.

However, he said, there should be some restrictions and people must follow safety protocols like wearing masks.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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