Odisha govt gears up for Puri Rath Yatra on Tuesday

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Bhubaneswar, June 22 (IANS) After the Supreme Court gave its green signal with riders, the Odisha administration, here on Monday, geared up for the smooth conduct of the annual Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath and his siblings in Puri.
The 10-day festival will begin on Tuesday, but without the participation of devotees due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In context of health hazards associated with Rath Yatra in Puri against the backdrop of coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Court on Monday said that it was “informed that in the 18th-19th century a yatra of this kind was responsible for the spread of cholera and plague like wildfire”.
A bench comprising Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and A.S. Bopanna said: “We say this in order to remind the authorities concerned that the situation can become dangerous if the rules of caution are ignored.”
The top court, however, clarified it does not have the official copy of the gazette with the information that in the 18th-19th century, a yatra of this kind was responsible for the spread of cholera and plague like wildfire.
The bench noted that any spread of coronavirus due to the Rath Yatra would be disastrous due to the large number of persons and the impossibility of tracking all the infected people after they have gone back to their respective homes.
“I am confident the Rath Yatra will be conducted smoothly tomorrow (Tuesday), without devotees and with strict adherence to the Covid-19 guidelines,” said Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy after a review meeting in Puri.
All the related departments were fully prepared for the annual festival and would comply with the Supreme Court’s directions, he added.
“The preparation for the Rath Yatra had begun long back. We were always ready to hold the annual event. Now the Supreme Court has allowed the state government and the temple administration to hold Yatra,” he said.
Following the court order, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik asked the Chief Secretary and DGP Abhay to take stock of the situation in Puri.
BJP President JP Nadda has hailed the Supreme Court ruling that has allowed the Rath Yatra celebration at Puri. Calling it a “symbol of our faith”, Nadda said it’s a century long tradition. However, Nadda urged everyone to take health precautions in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I heartily welcome the Supreme Court’s decision to conduct the holy Rath Yatra of Mahaprabhu Jagannath ji which is going on for centuries. It is a symbol of our faith. Best wishes to all devotees. Everyone is requested to take full care of health regulations at this time. Jai Jagannath!, the BJP President tweeted after the top court set aside its earlier order banning this year’s celebration due to the pandemic.
He also credited Prime Minister Narendra Modi with initiating talks with all stakeholders and Home Minister Amit Shah. On Sunday evening, Shah spoke to Gajapati Maharaj — the King of Puri– and Shankaracharya of Puri and sought their views on the Yatra as per the instructions of Prime Minister Modi.

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