By: Express News Service | Vadodara | Updated: June 7, 2020 11:55:20 pm
The SOPs state that all places of worship must ensure availability of sanitizer dispensers at the entry as well as have provisions for thermal screening. (Representational)
A day after the state government announced the Standard Operating Protocols (SOPs) ahead of the reopening of places of worship from June 8, the Vadodara city police issued a notification on Sunday imposing Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) until June 30, while releasing a list of SOPs that all places of worship must follow. Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Church of Gujarat has decided to maintain ‘status quo’ of the existing lockdown in view of the pandemic.
In Saturday’s meeting held by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and state home minister Pradeepsinh Jadeja with various religious heads, representatives of the Catholic church had asked the government to consider their request to administer the ‘holy communion’ to the faithful as it is an intrinsic part of the service and “cannot be considered as prasad” which is prohibited in the SOPs.
On Sunday, the Catholic diocese issued a video message through its spokesperson informing the believers that the church has decided to maintain a ‘status quo’ with the ongoing lockdown after examining the protocols laid down by the government.
On Saturday, the Muslim clerics had also asked Rupani to excuse the mosques from the mandatory installation of sanitizer dispensers since it is alcohol-based and ‘prohibited in Islam’.
The Commissioner of Police on Sunday confirmed that the order allows all places of worship to carry on with their regular prayer services so long as the mandatory social distancing and precautions mentioned in the SOPs — originally issued by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare — are followed.
The notification of the Vadodara police, signed by Commissioner of Police Anupam Singh Gahlaut, states, “All places of religious worship will have to follow the SOPs to precision, which has been enlisted by the health and family welfare department as well as the state government.”
The SOPs state that all places of worship must ensure availability of sanitizer dispensers at the entry as well as have provisions for thermal screening. “Only asymptomatic persons wearing masks will be allowed. If possible, the staggering of visitors is to be done. Footwear to be preferably taken off inside own vehicle or kept in separate slots for each individual. There has to be proper crowd management in the parking lots and outside the premises, duly following social distancing norms. Premises should draw markings to indicate the physical distancing of six feet, even when queuing up for entry,” the SOPs state.
Apart from this there is strict prohibition on touching of statues, idols and holy books as well as large gatherings, groups playing devotional music and choirs. The SOP stresses on the use of recorded songs. In mosques, in adherence to the government SOPs, circulars and boards have been put up advising believers to bring their own prayer mats as well as perform the wudhu (cleansing of hands, legs, face) at home. The SOPs also prohibit any physical offerings like prasad, distribution or sprinkling of holy water in religious places. Even langars and community kitchens have been disallowed.
Gahlaut said, “All religious places are allowed to function as per their ritualistic obligations so long as they adhere to the SOPs. There is no specific mention of Friday (namaz for Muslims) or Sunday (Eucharistic mass for Christians) in the SOP but if they have halls large enough to ensure that their believers can maintain the mandatory six-feet physical distance, then they can hold their service. We will be keeping a strict watch on all religious places as we are yet to reach the Covid-19 peak. So while the notification has been issued, it is in the best interest if everyone observes restraint and follows the precautionary measures.”
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