Bedi opposes nod for new year bash in Puducherry citing COVID;

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Don't interfere in administration, says CM Puducherry, Dec 23 (PTI) Puducherry Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi has objected to the Congress government allowing new year celebrations in the union territory next week, flagging concerns in view of the Covid pandemic and urged Chief Minister V Narayanasamy to ban the revelries.

Bedi, in a letter to Narayanasamy, said as neighbouring Tamil Nadu has banned new year celebrations in public places, the UT will 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 safety protocol.

In his reply, Narayanasamy said Puducherry was a 'tourism state' where a lot of people's livelihood depended on the industry and that curbing such festivities will 'severely' affect the service sector and the economy.

He also accused Bedi, a former IPS officer, of 'interfering' in the day-to-day administration of the UT and asked her to 'refrain' from it.

Bedi said Puducherry and Karaikal, sharing borders with Tamil Nadu, will be the destination points for the people from the neighbouring state in the eventuality of the UT permitting new year celebrations at beach, restaurants, hotels and resorts.

'The limited geography at the tourist thronging areas pose challenge that may be unsurmountable. All the good work done to contain the COVID-19 spread is likely to be at peril, if the Administration takes the risk of permitting New year celebrations,' she said.

'You are requested to kindly consider banning new year celebrations in public places for two days similar to Tamil Nadu in the interest of public health safety of the people of Puducherry,' she told Narayanasamy in the December 22 letter, made available to the media on Wednesday.

The Supreme Court had also issued guidelines in this regard, she said.

Narayanasamy had on Tuesday said there would be no bar on new year celebrations in Puducherry next week and the Beach Road among others would be open for the public.

Responding to Bedi's letter, the CM said it was amply clear from the apex court observation that strict Central government guidelines and standard operating procedure should be observed by the state for celebrations and gatherings and there should be a mechanism to check the number of attendees.

Quoting the judgement, he said there was no 'prohibition' on conducting festivals by people of different faiths.

He said the union territory was a tourism destination like Goa and it has not banned celebrations.

Since Puducherry being a 'tourism state,' the livelihood of the people who are engaged in tourism, the service sector and the economy will be severely affected if festivals and celebrations were curbed totally, he said.

It was the duty of the police to ensure compliance of guidelines issued by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and Health Ministry.

'Therefore as per the decision taken in the SDMA meeting, New Year celebration will go on following COVID-19 guidelines, namely social distancing and wearing of masks by the people, the beach will open for the public,' he asserted.

Taking a dig at Bedi, Narayanasamy said while himself, Ministers and MLAs have met the public during the pandemic times, she had not 'come out of the Raj Nivas (her official residence)' for nine months 'and is fully secured.' '...the Hon'ble Lt Governor may refrain from interfering in the day-to-day administration of the government and avoid issuing direct instructions to the officers which is totally illegal, arbitrary,' he claimed. PTI CORR SA VS VS