Telangana is soaked in a myriad of colours as the traditional Bonalu has made a grand comeback following a year of no celebrations owing to the pandemic. But the onset of the festive season has also led to blatant violation of Covid precautions, not just by the general public but also ministers.
On Sunday, which marked the first day of the month-long festival, Telangana Ministers Talasani Srinivas Yadav and Indrakaran Reddy were spotted without masks as they offered prayers to Goddess Jagadambika at Golconda. Social distancing norms also went for a toss as people came in droves to join in the celebrations. This was not just a standalone incident, visuals of celebrations from different parts of the State saw hundreds of devotees not following Covid-appropriate behaviour. Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too expressed his concerns over people crowding in public places and letting their guard down.
Bonalu is celebrated every year during the Telugu month of Ashadham which begins mid-July. During this traditional folk festival, women devotees offer meals and gifts to the goddess Mahakali at more than 25 temples across the State, a majority of them located in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad.
The annual event which will take place every Sunday till August 8, is already drawing tens of thousands of devotees, posing a big challenge to the State police to contain the spread of the virus.
According to the health department data, Telangana’s active caseload has dropped to 10,316 with less than 700 cases being reported on a daily average and a fatality rate of 0.59%. The steady decline in the number of Covid cases was one of the main reasons why Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao lifted the lockdown last month but only 20 lakh beneficiaries of Telangana’s nearly 4 crore population is fully vaccinated, while more than 1 crore people have received their first dose.
As the threat of the third wave looms large, Covid cases have been on the rise in Kerala, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh. Cross-border movement and lax enforcement of Covid norms have been driving the cases in several districts of Telangana including Khammam, Warangal and Karimnagar as their positivity rate is bordering around 10%. Experts have sounded a warning saying any kind of complacency or carelessness can lead to Covid cases spiralling out of control. Currently, a three-day fever survey is underway in the districts which have been red-flagged by the health officials.