Chief Minister Shivraj Singh on Saturday revoked his government’s earlier restriction on the scale of celebration during the festive season.(HT FILE PHOTO)
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh on Saturday revoked his government’s earlier restriction on the scale of celebration during the festive season.(HT FILE PHOTO)

MP govt takes u-turn, allows large Durga idols, big pandals and Ramleela amid Covid pandemic

Civil society members have criticised the government’s u-turn saying it was done with an eye on the assembly bypolls and could endanger a large number people amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Hindustan Times, Bhopal | By Shruti Tomar
PUBLISHED ON OCT 04, 2020 08:11 PM IST

A month after it banned the installation of Durga idols of more than 6 feet and setting up a pandal over more than 10 sq feet area amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the Madhya Pradesh government took a U-turn and lifted the restrictions on the celebrations.

The state government has also allowed Ramleela, burning of effigies of demon king Ravana, installation of bigger idols of Durga and huge pandals for visitors for Durga Puja and Dussehra while maintaining social distancing, a top official said.

“In a meeting held in Bhopal on Saturday chaired by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the decision was taken to permit the stage of Ram Leela and burning of Ravana’s effigy on Dussehra, but it will be mandatory for organisers as well as visitors to follow the protocols of Covid-19 including wearing masks and maintaining social distancing in all the events,” MP public relation department commissioner Sudam Khade said,

“The CM said that there will be no restriction on size of Durga idols during Durga Utsav and the pandals could be set up to the size of 1350 sq feet. However, the tableaux, Garba and procession will not be allowed,” he said.

The CM also instructed that officials should prepare “advance planning” because Covid 19 infection may spread further during the upcoming festivals and in winter season, said the officer.

Earlier, on September 4, the state government had issued an order banning large pandals and the installation of huge idols. In the order, the government had not cleared its stand on the staging of Ramleela and burning of effigies of Ravana.

According to an officer, the government scrapped the order after a protest by the different saffron organisations supported by BJP MP from Bhopal Pragya Thakur and Congress MLA PC Sharma.

However, civil society members expressed their concern as the state has about 19,807 active Covid-19 cases 19 and numbers are increasing by the day.

They say the decision was taken in view of bypolls, which is scheduled to be held on November 3 on 28 assembly seats.

Civil society member and political analyst Lajja Shankar Hardeniya said, “I have written a letter to the chief minister requesting a total ban on public celebration as being a leader he should lead the crowd not led by the crowd.”

“By allowing this, BJP tried to satisfy its vote bank for the upcoming bye-election. The state government is encouraging mass suicide. When authorities are failing to contain the spread in normal situations, how could we expect that they would keep a vigil on crowds in the Durga Utsav pandals and Dusshera ground?” he added.

An environmentalist and civil society member from Gwalior, Sudhir Sapra said, “In Gwalior, Chambal and Malwa region, the number of cases had increased due to political rallies. Now for the political gain and to make their vote bank happy, the state government is ready to put the life of people at stake. We are quite sure that the authorities wouldn’t take action against participants and organisers because of upcoming assembly elections.”

The opposition Congress welcomed the decision “It is a matter of faith. It will end the financial constraints of idol makers, tent houses, flower decorators, crackers sellers and others who were facing tough times due to Covid 19,” said PC Sharma, Congress MLA and former public relation minister.

Earlier, on Saturday, the Madhya Pradesh high court had directed the district magistrates in nine districts to register offences not only against political, government, state or social functionaries but also members of congregations under provisions of Disaster Management Act and Indian Penal Code (IPC) if they are found violating restrictions imposed under Covid-19 protocol while organizing social and political congregations.

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