UP government plans Diwali melas amid COVID-19 concerns
Despite concerns about a COVID-19 threat during the festive season, the Uttar Pradesh government has decided to hold week-long Diwali melas (fairs) in all cities across the state. UP Urban Development Minister Ashutosh Tandon has instructed for these fairs be made "attractive with both entertainment and cultural programs" and laser shows. These fairs will be held from October 28 to November 4.
Why does this story matter?
Diwali melas are a boon to the local economy and draw large crowds. The religiously sensitive festivities also come close to next year's state elections. However, large gatherings are not advisable considering the Centre's warnings of a surge in COVID-19 cases. To such concerns, the UP government has assured that all safety protocol will be followed at these fairs.
Dramas, puppet dances, food stalls
These fairs will have activities like magic shows, dramas, puppet dances, food stalls, performances, etc., a UP government notification accessed by CNN-News18 reportedly stated. LED screens will display the achievements of the Yogi Adityanath government over the last four-and-a-half years. Directions have been issued to arrange rides and swings for children, food stalls, and cut-outs of "great leaders" for selfie kiosks.
Boon to street hawkers
According to the UP government, the fairs would provide a platform to street hawkers, thus boosting their income. Hence, a dedicated help desk would be set up at the fairs for beneficiaries of the PM SVANidhi Scheme to empower street vendors.
Contrarily, the Centre has asked the public to behave responsibly during the festival season and avoid gatherings. Dr. VK Paul, chief of India's COVID-19 task force, told CNN-News18, "Crowds are bad, large gatherings are bad... The virus loves these things. Please don't make the virus happy by creating these situations and therefore don't lower your guard. Let's do this for the next 100 days..."
Melas to follow COVID-19 protocol: UP government
Defending the fairs, the UP government said it has directed "all arrangements to be made at the Diwali Mela venues regarding COVID-19 safety protocol." All visitors at these fairs will be instructed to wear face masks and adequate hand sanitizers will be available at the venues, it said. However, there is no clarity on how physical distancing would be ensured.
How is the UP government organizing these fairs?
Each city will have a committee comprising the district police chief and the chief medical officer, among other officials, to organize these fairs. The committees were to identify venues by October 17 and are scheduled to complete all arrangements by October 22.
How is the state handling COVID-19?
No new COVID-19 cases were reported from 71 UP districts on Tuesday. Only 12 new cases were reported from four districts. The state's daily COVID-19 tally has been under 50 for over two consecutive months. At 0.01%, the state also has the lowest daily COVID-19 test positivity rate. The recovery rate was recorded at 98.9%.