New Delhi, Jun 8 (PTI) In view of the prevailing COVID-19 situation, ASI monuments having places of worship will remain shut in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Odisha and Jammu and Kashmir despite nod from the central government to reopen them from Monday, officials said.
In an order issued on Sunday, the Union Culture Ministry approved reopening of 820 Archeological Survey of India (ASI) protected monuments which have places of worship from June 8, but allowed local authorities in the states to take the final call depending on the situation on the ground.
The officials said around 65 such monuments in Maharashtra, 28 in Rajasthan, 46 in Odisha, 75 in Tamil Nadu and nine in Jammu and Kashmir will remain closed due to the prevailing coronavirus situation.
The authorities in Agra have decided that all the 14 monuments, listed by the Culture Ministry to be opened in the city from June 8, will remain shut. While the ministry had given its nod to the reopening of three places of worship near and in Taj Mahal premises -- the Fatehpuri Masjid on the south-west corner of Taj Mahalś entrance, the mosque inside its complex and the Kali Masjid near it -- the district authorities in a meeting on Sunday decided against it.
The local administration in these states and the Union Territory have informed the ASI offices there on the decision to keep the monuments shut, the officials said.
They said in Odisha, where the lockdown is till June 30, popular places of worship that will remain shut are the Jagannath Temple in Puri, Lingaraj, Mukteswar, Ananta Vasudev and other ancient Shaiva centres, 64 Yogini Pitha at Heerapur and Kapilash Pitha in Dhenkanal will stay shut till then at least.
Local authorities in the states and the UT have also told ASI officials that since the pandemic is still not contained, they did not feel the need to reopen these sites as very few are expected to come.
In Delhi, Friday prayers would be allowed in the Qutub archaeological area and at Afsah-wala-ki Masjid outside the west gate of Humayun's Tomb, the list said.
All the 3,691 Centrally-protected monuments and archaeological sites maintained by the ASI were shut from March 17 due to the coronavirus crisis.
Among the ASI monuments having places of worship which would be opened from Monday include 114 from the northern region, 155 from the central region, 120 from the western region, 279 from the southern region and around 100 from the eastern region, the officials said.
Most such monuments are in Vadodara (77), followed by Chennai (75), Dharwad (73) and Bengaluru (69).
Statewise, Uttar Pradesh has 111 such monuments, followed by Maharashtra with 65 and 60 in Madhya Pradesh.
The Centre had on May 30 said that 'Unlock-1' would be initiated in India from June 8 under which the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown effectuated on March 25 would be relaxed to a great extent, including reopening of shopping malls, restaurants and religious places, even as strict restrictions would remain in place till June 30 in the country's worst-hit areas.
The Health Ministry on Thursday released SOPs for reopening offices, hotels, shopping malls, restaurants and religious places. Some of them have already reopened in parts of the country and a few others are scheduled to re-start in the next phase of unlocking from Monday. The stakeholders will be responsible for following the guidelines.
The guidelines released by the Ministry of Home Affairs state that hand hygiene (sanitizer dispenser) and thermal screening provisions are to be made compulsory at the entrance. Only asymptomatic persons shall be permitted entry to the premises. Entry will be allowed only to the people using masks or face covers. It also stated that footwear or shoes should be preferably taken off.
The MHA guidelines said in order to manage the queue and ensure social distancing on the premises, specific markings must be made with sufficient distance and separate entry and exit should be organized for the visitors. When queuing for the entry, a minimum of 6-feet distance should be maintained at all times. PTI ASG CK