Hotels vacated at Puri ahead of Lord Jagannath s Ratha Jatra on Monday

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Puri (Odisha), Jul 10 (PTI) With less than 48 hours to go for the annual Rath Jatra of Lord Jagannath here, the Puri district administration directed all visitors to vacate hotels, lodges and guest houses as the Odisha government has banned public participation in the mega festival to be held on Monday.

For the second consecutive year, the state government has restricted people's participation and large gathering in the Ratha Jatra (chariot festival) in the interest of public health due to the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.

The administration has also announced a 48-hour curfew to stop any congregation. The restrictive measure will be imposed at 8 pm on July 11, a day before the Ratha Jatra, and continue till 8 pm on July 13.

Puri Collector Samarth Verma on Saturday said that the owners of hotels and lodgings have been asked to ensure that no tourists stay put in the town during the Rath Jatra.

Private guest houses of various companies and corporate houses have also been given similar instructions, he said.

He said that during the 48-hour curfew period, there will be no operation of business establishments and essential services, barring medical emergencies.

Optical shops, medicine outlets and the shops dealing with medical equipment will remain open in other areas of the town during the curfew period, while all activities are banned in the three-kilometre stretch of the Grand Road connecting the 12th century shrine and the Sri Gundicha Temple, the destination of the chariots.

The Special Relief Commissioner has relaxed weekend shutdown norms for Puri town on Saturday in order to make people undertake essential shopping for two days.

Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) said that the three chariots- Lord Jagannath's 'Nandighosh', Lord Balabhadra's 'Taladwaja' and Devi Subhadra's 'Darpadalan' chariots are ready to roll on the Grand Road on Monday.

All arrangements have been made for the smooth conduct of the festival, SJTA chief administrator Kishan Kumar said.

Some ornamental works like flower decoration are left and those will be completed by Sunday, an SJTA official said.

Meanwhile, Additional Director General of Police RK Sharma on Saturday reviewed the security arrangements for the festival.

The stretch between Shree Jagannatha Temple and Gundicha Temple has been divided into four zones while the entire Puri town will remain under a total of 12 zones.

Around 65 platoons (one platoon comprises 30 personnel) of security forces will be deployed during the festival. Security personnel will also be posted on terraces of buildings adjacent to Grand Road as the state government has banned rooftop viewing of the festival.

All entry and exit points to the holy town will be sealed a day before the Ratha Jatra in order to avoid any possible congregation.

The state government has appealed to the people not to visit Puri during the festival and instead, watch the live broadcast of the Ratha Jatra on TV.

Usually, around 10 lakh people gather in Puri during the festival. PTI AAM NN NN

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