Patnaik seeks cooperation of all for smooth conduct of Puri Ratha Yatra amidst COVID-19 scare

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Bhubaneswar, Jul 8 (PTI) Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik Thursday sought cooperation of all including devotees for the smooth conduct of Lord Jagannaths annual Ratha Yatra this year on July 12 amid strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols.

Patnaik made the appeal and sought blessings of the lord while reviewing the preparation for the mega event falling on July 12.

'Like last year, this time also the world-famous Mahaprabhu's Ratha Yatra will be held in an extraordinary situation. 'Kalia Thakur' (as Lord Jagannath referred) will be seen all over the world on television and social media.

'Therefore, the lord's rituals should be performed in proper time and in addition the COVID norms must be followed properly during the festival,' the chief minister said.

Noting that the preparation for the big occasion is almost in the final stage, Patnaik thanked everyone for the hassle-free completion of the ratha yatra last year and wished the people of Puri town will wholeheartedly cooperate as they did last year.

This is the second consecutive year that the state government is organising the devotee-less ratha yatra due to the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.

The government has completely banned presence of people at the Grand Road in front of the 12th century shrine in Puri during the chariots procession.

Curfew will be imposed on the grand road a day before the ratha yatra day in order to ensure that people do not congregate near the chariots.

Only COVID-19 negative or servitors having administered both the doses of the vaccine will be allowed to pull the chariots.

The officials will also have to produce the COVID-19 certificate before joining the duty, Puri Collector Samarth Verma said.

The chief minister said that although the second wave of COVID pandemic has come down significantly, the danger is not yet over.

Joining the meeting, Health and Family Welfare Minister NK Das said that special arrangements have been made for health care during the ratha yatra.

'All tests are in place for the servitors and all concerned officials, including coronavirus test, the vaccination system, the fast aid centre, the ambulances, the medical aid post,' he said, adding that special arrangements have been made at the Puri district headquarters hospital.

Law Minister Pratap Jena said he hoped the ratha yatra would end this year smoothly as it had been conducted last year.

'All security measures have been taken by the police administration,' DGP Abhay said.

Meanwhile, with barely three days away for the festival, the district administration of Puri along with the health department set up camps for the RT-PCR tests of all the servitors to be engaged in pulling of the chariots and other officials to be engaged in the duty.

Around 8,000 people including 3,000 servitors of lord Jagannath, 3,000 police personnel, 1,000 servitors engaged in chariot construction work and Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) staff will undergo the test for the second time ahead of the festival.

This apart, a special testing camp was also being organised for the COVID-19 test of about 1,000 media persons and other government employees, to take part in the festival.

The people participating in the nine-day festival of the lord will undergo COVID tests four times to check spread of the deadly infection.

For the first time, the servitors' RT-PCR tests were done before the auspicious 'Snan Yatra' (bathing ritual) of the Lord on June 24. The COVID testing of servitors and others started for the second time before the ratha yatra.

Meanwhile, the Grand Road will be transformed into a green zone for emergency services during the ratha yatra, said Puri SP K V Singh.

He said the fire fighting vehicles and ambulances can play in the green zone.

The security will be tightened around the Puri town, the SP said. PTI AAM SNS SNS

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