Nod to reopening 820 protected monuments

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New Delhi: The culture ministry on Sunday approved the reopening of 820 Archeological Survey of India (ASI)-protected monuments that have remained closed since the Centre clamped a national lockdown to tackle the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak, Union minister Prahlad Patel said.

The list of monuments includes temples, mosques and churches, with 114 monuments in the north region, 155 in central, 170 in the west, 279 in the south and 103 in the eastern circle.

“Today, the culture ministry has approved the opening of 820 of its active monuments under the ASI from June 8. All protocols issued by the home ministry and the health ministry should be followed,” Patel tweeted.

While the list of monuments approved for reopening included the Taj Mahal, Agra district magistrate Prabhu N Singh said the 17th-century will not open for public from Monday. The district administration decided not to open the monument as the area is classified as a Covid-19 hotspot.

People aware of the developments said that monuments located in Maharashtra were also unlikely to be opened in view of the surging Covid-19 infections in the state.

A statement issued by the Centre said: “Culture Ministry said that ASI shall ensure that preventive measures as stipulated in the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) issued by Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Govt. of India, on 4.6.2020 to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the religious places/places of worship are effectively put in place and scrupulously followed while opening and managing these Centrally Protected Monuments.”

The culture ministry decided to open only ASI-maintained monuments where religious events are held.

About 3,700 centrally protected monuments and heritage sites were closed in March after the nationwide lockdown was announced. Once allowed by local administrations, the highest number of monuments is set to reopen in Karnataka (153), followed by Uttar Pradesh (111), Tamil Nadu (77) and Andhra Pradesh (75).

The monuments allowed to open include the Afsah-wala-ki-Masjid situated outside the west gate of Humayun’s Tomb, the Qutub Minar and Nizamuddin Dargah in Delhi. According to the document, the Nizamuddin Dargah sees nearly 5,000-6,000 worshippers every day. The Govind Dev Temple in Mathura (1,500-2,000 worshippers daily) has also been allowed to open. The famous Basilica of Bom Jesus, Old Goa (700-2,500 visitors per day, depending on the time of the year) has also been approved to reopen. The Ambernath Temple, which sees a footfall of 800,000 a year, has also been allowed to reopen.

The Union culture and tourism minister told Hindustan Times that the move will allow the ministry to observe and gauge the way forward as the central government eases restrictions in a phased manner. “Hotels and restaurants have also been allowed to function starting tomorrow (Monday),” Patel said. “The standard operating procedures issued by the health and home ministry will be followed at the places of worship that have been allowed to be opened,” he added.

“The states can further issue orders for the monuments that fall under them,” Patel said.

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