L-G, CM spar over New Year fete in Puducherry

PUDUCHERRY:11/10/2018: Lt Governor Kiran Bedi, at the International Girl Child Day celebrations in Puducherry on Thursday.PHOTO:M_Samraj   | Photo Credit: M. Samraj

Puducherry Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy on Wednesday rejected Lt. Governor Kiran Bedi’s letter seeking a ban on New Year celebrations in the Union Territory on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the context of the emergence of a mutant strain of the virus.

Ms. Bedi, in a letter to the Chief Minister, cited the recent Supreme Court order calling on the States not to grant permission for celebrations. The Tamil Nadu government had also banned New Year celebrations at restaurants, clubs and resorts, and prohibited entry to beaches/thoroughfares on December 31 and January 1.

“The limited geography at the tourist-thronging areas pose a challenge that may be unsurmountable. All the good work done to contain the COVID-19 spread is likely to be at peril if the administration takes the risk of permitting New Year celebrations,” Ms. Bedi wrote.

According to Ms. Bedi, if Puducherry did not align with Tamil Nadu, beaches here would be overrun with visitors from the neighbouring State.

“The question is whether we are ready to compromise health safety for just two days’ business,” she added.

In response, Mr. Narayanasamy said the top court had given broad directions to States/U.T.s after taking into account the COVID-19 situation in respective places.

According to him, it was amply clear from the observation of the Supreme Court that strict guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOPs) of the Central government should be observed for celebrations and there should be a mechanism to check the number of people attending functions and so forth. In the said judgment, there were no prohibitions for conducting festivals by the temple authority, celebration of Christmas by Christians and Sankranthi (Pongal) by Hindus, Mr. Narayanasamy said.

Taking into account the directions given by the Supreme Court, the Puducherry State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) had taken a decision not to ban but regulate gatherings and celebrations, Mr. Narayanasamy said.

Ahead of the Sani Peyarchi festival, the district administration in Karaikal had taken steps to observe the guidelines issued by the Home Ministry and the Health Ministry. “Therefore, the Lt. Governor need not obstruct the festival,” the Chief Minister added.

He said it was due to the government’s concern about the safety of those in the Union Territory that the pandemic was under control. As far as the new strain that was discovered in the U.K. was concerned, there were clear reports that it has not been found in India, he added.

Most States in India have not banned New Year celebrations, he said. Puducherry was a tourism destination and the livelihood of the people engaged in tourism activities would be severely affected if celebrations are curbed, the Chief Minister said.

It was the duty of the Police Department to ensure compliance of the guidelines issued by the Home Ministry, the Health Ministry and the SDMA, he said.

“No function or celebration can be prevented in the name of COVID-19. If that being the case, political meetings organised by the political parties in all parts of India have to be prohibited,” he contended

As per the decision taken in the SDMA meeting, New Year celebrations would go on following COVID-19 guidelines, including social distancing. Beaches would be open for the public. As far as hotels and restaurants are concerned, a decision would be taken after convening a meeting with hotel owners, he said.

Mr. Narayanasamy said the Lt. Governor was in the habit of interfering in the day-to-day administration of the government, which is against decision of the courts. During the pandemic, he and his Cabinet Ministers have met the public, those affected by the pandemic, visited hospitals, containment zones and have gotten to fully understand the ground realities. “Without knowing the ground realities, the Lt. Governor should refrain from advising others,” he said.

Meanwhile, AIADMK leader Om Sakthi Sekar, in a letter to the Lt. Governor, called upon her to issue orders for suspension of New Year celebrations.

In a situation where a second variant of COVID-19 had been detected, the announcement of the Chief Minister that celebrations would be allowed in the Union Territory was alarming, he said.

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Printable version | Jun 21, 2021 7:24:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/l-g-cm-spar-over-new-year-fete-in-puducherry/article33406319.ece

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