Chief Minister of Puducherry V Narayanasamy on Thursday reiterated the decision of the territorial government to permit New Year celebrations with adherence to COVID-19 safety norms. Addressing the National Consumer Day celebration organised by Department of Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs here, he said, "No one has power or authority to ban celebration of New Year revelry." He said the government is meant to function without banning the practices of the people.
In a veiled reference to the ban on the celebration announced by the District Collector Purva Garg, the Chief Minister said if the pandemic situation was sought to be cited to prevent the celebrations a question arises as to whether industrial, business activities, agricultural practices or others were put on hold. Are not officials attending offices during the situation, he asked.
Narayanasamy said religious conventions and practices cannot be restricted though one should follow safety norms during the celebrations. In Puducherry, a former French colony, celebrating occasions like New Year have been taking place traditionally.
"Our culture is intertwined with the French culture," he said. Those showing red flags should change their attitude and abstain from embarrassing the people`, he said.
Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi had objected to the Congress government allowing the New Year celebrations here in view of the pandemic and urged Narayanasamy to ban them. Bedi, in a letter to him, said as neighbouring Tamil Nadu has banned new year celebrations in public places, the Union Territory would draw people from there and the good work done to contain the COVID-19 spread was likely to be at peril.
The issue brought to fore another instance of disagreement between the two, often at loggerheads over various matters, as the Chief Minister asserted the celebrations would go on with COVID-19 protocol. In his reply, Narayanasamy said Puducherry was a tourism place where many people's livelihood depended on the industry and that curbing such festivities would affect the service sector and the economy.
He accused Bedi of interfering in the day-to-day administration of the Union Territory and asked her to refrain from such interference. Citing an instance, he said when the government was going ahead with supply of rice through fair price shops, the Lieutenant Governor directed payment equivalent to cost of rice be deposited through DBT (direct benefit transfer) in the bank accounts of beneficiaries.
"The stand of the Lt Governor is not reasonable because the price of rice will fluctuate and the increased price of rice will only cause hardship to the people," he said. But this was not acceptable to Bedi who insisted on the DBT mode, and this was upheld by the Union Home Ministry, he said.
The Chief Minister said he had filed a petition in court seeking a directive to supply rice through fair price shops. "I myself have filed the petition and verdict is awaited," he said.
Welfare Minister M Kandasamy, speaking on the occasion, said the celebration of National Consumer Day was marked by training the functionaries of various consumer outfits here.