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Coronavirus: Ayodhya Admin Ignores Advisory Against Mass Gatherings, to Go Ahead With Ram Navami Mela

A statue of Lord Ram is seen after Supreme Court's verdict on the disputed religious site in Ayodhya. (Image: Reuters)

A statue of Lord Ram is seen after Supreme Court's verdict on the disputed religious site in Ayodhya. (Image: Reuters)

The Ram Navmi Mela this year is considered special as it will be the first after the Supreme Court's verdict last year that paved the way for the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.

Lucknow: Even though the Yogi Adityanath-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has decided to extend the closure of educational institutions in the state till April 2 and banned all kinds of examinations, the Ayodhya district administration has decided to go ahead with the Ram Navmi Mela from March 25 to April 2 expected to be attened by lakhs of people.

The Ram Navmi Mela this year is considered special as it will be the first after the Supreme Court's verdict last year that paved the way for the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. The idol of Ram Lalla will also be shifted to a new makeshift abode on March 24 and the first 'aarti' is expected to be done in the presence of Adityanath and other senior leaders of the BJP.

Ayodhya Chief Medical Officer Dr Ghanshyam Singh, however, raised concerns over the gathering of lakhs of people at a time when fighting the deadly coronavirus has been the government's top priority.

“We are worried and have been telling people to take precautions and not to go to places where there are large gatherings," he said. "The UP government has also issued an advisory in this regard. I have raised my concerns with the Ayodhya District administration."

Singh said it is impossible to gather thousands of people who gather at such melas. "I have flagged the issue, now it is up to the administration to take a call. I believe that life is more important than religious gatherings. However, no positive case has been found yet in our district.”

Brushing aside Singh's concerns, the chief priest of Ram Lalla Mahant Satyendra Das said the mela should not be stopped, but arrangements made to keep the attending people safe.

“There is no question of shifting the Ram Navmi Mela, it is a matter of faith for crores of people," said Das. "Ayodhya faced so many issues, but the mela has never been stopped. The authorities should make proper arrangements for sanitisation and other facilities instead of suggesting not to hold the mela. People's sentiments will be hurt, along with the business getting affected if the mela is cancelled."

District Magistrate Anuj Kumar Jha said the administration will issue a issuing detailed advisory for Ayodhya residents and pilgrims. "The mela is a traditional religious programme and it will be organised in its due time. However, we will make some action points along with a detailed advisory.”

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, all competitive and examinations in UP have been cancelled and the closure of educational institutions has been extended till April 2.

According to latest figures from the state health department, the total number of patients found positive for coronavirus stands at 15 after 598 samples tested negative. Reports of another 107 samples are awaited.

As of now, 19,473 people have been screened at the state airport, while more than 12.81 lakh people have been screened at border check posts. About 1,957 villages along the border with Nepal have been sanitised. The health department has also identified 1,155 quarantine beds across the state.