Mumbai: Places of worship to open for devotees from November 16
State issues order to reopen places of worship starting Monday; masks and social distancing still mandatory, as state readies for second wave, which medical experts say could likely hit by January
Temples and other places of worship will reopen from Monday. The state government resolved the much-politicised demand by issuing an order on Saturday, with a condition that the COVID-19 protocol of social distancing and wearing masks be followed. Schools in Maharashtra will reopen a week after religious places welcome devotees, making unlock almost complete, with only suburban trains awaiting a final nod.
The Opposition parties—the BJP, AIMIM and Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi—had raised a demand to reopen places of worship. The priests had given a call of indefinite strike and protests were held at the temples across Maharashtra in the past month.
In a statement, CM Thackeray said the unlock order was God's wish. "Don't take this as a government order, but consider it a God's wish. We remove slippers before entering the temple, but don't forget that the mask on your face is also mandatory. The Gods will bless Maharashtra only if we follow the discipline."
Aadesh Bandekar, chairman of the Siddhivinayak Temple Trust, said, "We have called for an urgent meeting of all our board members today at noon, so that we can take a final decision on whether we are reopening on Monday and if so, what are the provisional measures that need to be put in place. We are also going to conduct a dry run on Monday, but people need to understand that our challenges are different than those of other places, since we get lakhs of devotees coming in almost every day. The problem will arise if all the devotees, having not paid respects at a temple for the past eight months, decide to come and visit Siddhivinayak at the same time, which will in turn cause further crowding problems. People have been patient for so long and they need to remain patient a little longer."
Sohail Khandwani, Trustee of Mahim and Haji Ali Dargah Trust, welcomed the decision. "Apart from the SOPs that have been laid out by the government, we have added a few more to the list. Earlier [before lockdown], the inner sanctum of the Mahim Dargah could accommodate upto 150 people—but now we will allow only 15 persons at a time."
Irshad Siddiqui Lakdawala, President of Zakaria Masjid Trust, said that although he hadn't received a circular, they would be going ahead and reopening on Monday.
Father Nigel Barrett, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Bombay, said, "The general instruction is to not be in a hurry to reopen unless all SOPs are in place. I am currently waiting for instructions from the Cardinal."
With inputs from Gaurav Sarkar
No. of people now allowed in Mahim dargah sanctum at a time
SOPs to be followed at Religious places
. Individuals must maintain minimum six feet distance.
. Use of face masks to be mandatory.
. Persons above 65 years of age, those with comorbidities, pregnant women and children below the age of 10 years are advised to stay at home.
. Respiratory etiquettes to be strictly followed. This involves strict practice of covering one's mouth and nose, while coughing, sneezing with a tissue/handkerchief.
. Spitting to be strictly prohibited.
. Installation and use of Aarogya Setu App shall be advised to all.
. Entrance to have mandatory hand hygiene (sanitiser dispenser) and thermal screening provisions.
. Only asymptomatic persons shall be allowed in the premises.
. Posters/standees on preventive measures about COVID-19 to be displayed prominently. Audio and video clips to spread awareness on preventive measures for COVID-19 should be regularly played.
. Staggering of visitors to be done, if possible.
. Footwear to be preferably taken off inside own vehicle. If needed they should be kept in separate slots for each individual/family by the persons themselves.
. Proper crowd management in the parking lots and outside the premises—duly following social distancing norms shall be organised.
. Any shops, stalls, cafeteria etc., outside and within the premises shall follow social distancing norms at all times.
. Specific markings may be made with sufficient distance to manage the queue and ensure social distancing in the premises.
. Preferably separate entry and exits for visitors should be organised.
. People should wash their hands and feet with soap and water before entering the premises.
. Seating arrangement to be made in such a way that adequate social distancing is maintained.
. For air-conditioning/ventilation, the guidelines of CPWD shall be followed, which emphasises that the temperature setting of all air conditioning devices should be in the range of 24 to 30 degree Celsius, relative humidity should be in the range of 40 to 70%, intake of fresh air should be as much as possible and cross ventilation should be adequate.
. Touching of statues, idols, holy books etc. not to be allowed.
. Large gatherings/congregations continue to remain prohibited.
. In view of potential threat of spread of infection, as far as possible, recorded devotional music/songs may be played and choir or singing groups should not be allowed.
. Avoid physical contact, while greeting each other.
. Common prayer mats should be avoided and devotees should bring their own prayer mat or piece of cloth which they may take back with them.
. No physical offerings like prasad/distribution or sprinkling of holy water, etc.to be allowed.
. Community kitchens at religious places should follow physical distancing norms, while preparing and distributing food.
. Effective sanitation within the premises shall be maintained with particular focus on lavatories, hand and foot-washing stations/areas.
. Frequent cleaning and disinfection to be maintained by the management of the religious place.
. The floors should particularly be cleaned multiple times in the day.
. Proper disposal of face covers/masks/gloves left over by visitors.
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