Tamil Nadu forced to withdraw vaccination norm for temple entry

Tamil Nadu efforts to avert virus-spread suffer setback as temples not keen on restricting crowds

When it comes to religion, it is very rare that administrative interventions stand a chance of getting implemented. Be it for public good or not, policy decisions taken are sabotaged by those who think they are custodians of religious codes.

This is exactly what has happened in Tamil Nadu, of late. An administrative decision to allow only fully vaccinated people into the large shrines at Madurai and Rameswaram has seen itself being pulled.

It was a while ago that the Department of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR&CE), under the Tamil Nadu government, had brought to the fore its decision to allow entry to only those devotees who had taken two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The decision had come about owing to the crowds that throng these two temples.

Tamil Nadu norm irks devotees

However, devotees were not amused. They believed the restrictions were against their right to worship. On the contrary, the entry restriction had a noble intention of preventing further spread of the Coronavirus when devotees arrive in large numbers to these temples of repute.

The Meenakshi Sundareswar temple in Madurai and the Ramanathaswamy temple in Rameswaram are two shrines that attract large numbers of devotees every single day. The government’s intervention, allowing entry only to those who had taken both doses of the vaccine as stipulated, was a step towards prevention of further spread of the virus when people throng these temples in large numbers. Crowd management is a tough task when it comes to religious gatherings.

Efforts to thwart virus spread defeated

However, devotees thought it to be an unnecessary intervention by the government in religious affairs and stood staunchly against the restricted-entry rule. With opposition mounting, the Department of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment had no other option but to withdraw the order that allowed only fully inoculated people from entering the temples’ premises.

The department pulled the order on Sunday, just a day after it was issued. The pilgrims were to arrive with their vaccine certificates and follow the norm from Monday onwards (December 13). But with religion playing the boss, it is now back to square one.

Even as the government is trying hard to avert a third wave of the virus spread, people aren’t willing to offer support. With more than 50,000 devotees estimated as visiting the temples in Madurai and Rameswaram every passing day, the norm would have proved to be a shot in the arm as the government has kicked of efforts to help its people stay safe.  

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