Avoid rallies, big public programs on Shiv Jayanti: Maha govt

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(Eds: adds BJP's reaction) Mumbai, Feb 11 (PTI) No processions or big gatherings should be organized on the birth anniversary of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj on February 19 in view of COVID-19 situation, guidelines issued by the Maharashtra government said on Thursday.

The opposition BJP, however, criticized the move, saying the same government did not impose any restrictions on events such as the recently held Elgar Parishad.

Shiv Jayanti, the birth anniversary of the iconic 17th century ruler, is celebrated with great fervor in the state.

But looking at the pandemic situation, the government wants simple celebrations this year.

Shivaji Maharaj was born on February 19, 1630, on the Shivneri fort in Pune district and people gather on that and other forts in large numbers on the midnight of February 18 every year, the official statement noted.

'But it is expected that Shiv Jayanti festival will be celebrated in a simple manner without coming together on a big scale to avoid the spread of COVID-19,' it said.

Processions, motorbike rallies should be avoided and cultural programs should be telecast through cable networks or online platforms instead of holding them in public, the guidelines said.

Statues or portraits of Shivaji Maharaj can be garlanded in the presence of maximum of 10 persons by observing social distancing, the government said.

Blood donation camps and programs to spread awareness about COVID-19, malaria, dengue and other diseases should be organized while observing social distancing, the guidelines advised.

The BJP criticized the Shiv Sena-led state government for imposing restrictions on Shiv Jayanti celebrations.

Chief spokesperson of the state BJP Keshav Upadhye said, 'The true colours of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government are seen now.' The same government is hesitating to arrest Aligarh University alumnus Sharjeel Usmani (against whom a case has been registered in Pune for allegedly making a provocative speech at Elgar Parshad conclave), he said.

The government gave permission to events such as Elgar Parishad 'where communal statements are made', Upadhye alleged.

'When it comes to reopening of liquor shops or promoting night life, the state government seems to be not giving much thought (to the pandemic),' the BJP spokesperson added. PTI ENM ND KRK KRK