Ayodhya: A priest in the Ramjanmbhoomi complex and 15 policemen in Ayodhya have tested COVID- 19 positive, yet preparations for the foundation stone laying ceremony for the Ram Temple are being done on war footing.
The policemen who tested positive were engaged in security duties at the Ram Janmabhoomi complex, the temple trust said. While four of them were on permanent duty inside the complex, the rest took turns.
Despite the outbreak in cases, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is very likely to visit the temple city on August 5 for laying the foundation stone of the temple. While there has been no official confirmation yet on this issue, the preparations speak for themselves.
Buildings and shops that fall in the way from Saket College to the Ramjanmabhoomi site are being given a fresh coat of paint with streets being cleaned to give a neat look to the temple city for the PM’s visit.
The city, which saw a lot of communal tension, allegedly due to outsiders, after the demolition of the Babri mosque in 1992 is today staring at another crisis in the coronavirus. There is apprehension of a spurt in the COVID-19 cases if large numbers of people attend the foundation laying ceremony.
According to Dr Murli, deputy director at the Ayodhya Information Department, more than 300 saints, other than the VIPs from across the country, have been invited for the ceremony.
“We have invited all the saints from across the country. The numbers are above 300 but the administration is yet to receive confirmation from them. The invites to the VIPs have been sent separately but nothing is clear as of now,” he said, refusing to comment on the fresh COVID-19 cases found within the complex.
On being asked if Pradip Das, one of the saints who tested positive for the virus, the officer said: “Unko khansi zukam hai. Khansi zukam hona matlab corona thodi na hua.”
(He has cough and cold and that does not mean he has corona.)
Meanwhile, priest Pradeep Das, who was to participate in the Ram Temple rituals next week, confirmed to this reporter on phone that he had tested positive and had been put under home quarantine.
“I was not well since the past two days and had a cough and cold. I got tested (on Wednesday) and got the results today (Thursday). The result says I am Covid19 positive. It is unfortunate for me that I will not be able to participate in the ceremony now,” he said.
Mahant Kamal Nayan Das, the successor of Temple Trust Chairman Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, while confirming the development, said: “One of the saints, who perform the daily rituals, has tested positive but there is nothing to worry about. The entire premises will be sanitised on a routine basis and the ceremony will be held.”
Champat Rai, one of the temple trust members and the key person looking after all the preparations in Ayodhya, told NewsClick that whatever programme was happening would be done following strict guidelines to avoid the spread of the virus.
“I do not know if the Prime Minister himself is coming or not but all the preparations are being done for him. The programme will be observed under the guidelines issued to avoid spread of corona,” he said.
As per the figures of the UP Health Department released on July 28, a total of 66 people tested positive for COVID-19 in Ayodhya on Wednesday. Till date, 605 people have been discharged from hospitals while there are 375 active cases. Thirteen people have died in the district so far.
Rajesh Gupta, a pharmacist and owner of a mid-sized hotel in Ayodhya expressed concern over the increasing number of cases. “We all know that corona is spreading at a very great speed and is like a wildfire. I am worried that if the priest of the temple can be tested positive, then there could be many active cases roaming freely in the city undetected. If a large number of people come here to attend this ceremony, it can make the situation worse and things will really go out of hand. I am not against the ceremony but I am worried about the pace at which corona is gripping the world,” he told NewsClick.