Andhra: 743 staffers of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams corona-positive, three dead
In a worrying turn of events, as many as 743 staff members of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) in Andhra Pradesh tested positive for coronavirus and three have died, an official said on Sunday. Among those who contracted the infection are priests working at the famed Lord Venkateswara Temple. Despite concerning reports, the temple won't be closed again. Here are more details.
Lord Venkateswara Temple opened in June, coronavirus infections soared
The celebrated temple opened its gates in June, after being shut for more than two months due to coronavirus-induced restrictions. However, till July 9, 90 staff members of TTD had already tested positive. Subsequently, the Andhra Pradesh government suggested shutting the shrine but TTD kept it open, evoking criticism that the temple's decision was driven by the motive to make money.
Andhra official said darshan needs to be closed
In a letter to TTD, that manages the temple, a senior police official wrote, "In the interest of public health safety, the 'darshan' needs to be closed as it doesn't come under the emergency department (activities)." The suggestion was spurned. Moreover, TTD that allowed 6,000 devotees for darshan initially, increased the number eventually while assuring that all precautions are being taken.
Kept temple open for devotees, not donations: Official
Now, TTD Executive Officer Anil Kumar Singhal has asserted that 402 people have defeated the virus. On allegations that the ancient temple was kept open for donations, Singhal said they were respecting the demands of devotees who longed for darshan for over 80 days. He claimed TTD was spending more money on COVID-measures than what it received from pilgrims.
TTD has received nearly Rs. 20 crore in donations
Meanwhile, reports said the hilltop temple has been visited by 2.38 lakh since it re-opened. Further, TTD received Rs. 16.69 crore as Hundi collections and Rs. 3.97 crore through e-Hundi. Singhal also clarified that those who have booked their darshan online but couldn't travel to Tirupati because of coronavirus, would not get a refund. The refund program was only applicable during the lockdown.
India, third worst-hit nation, has over 22L cases, 44K deaths
To note, places of worship were shut in March, when a complete lockdown was enforced in India to contain coronavirus transmission. But as the lockdown crushed the economy, relaxations were given from June. However, in the unlock phase, the coronavirus infections' tally has been consistently rising. It now stands at 2,217,645. Moreover, 44,499 have died of the disease. Fortunately, over 15 lakh have recovered.