CHENNAI: Days after the Tamil Nadu government increased the seating capacity of theatres to 100 percent, the Union government has asked the state to issue fresh orders complying with the Centre’s guidelines, which only permit 50 percent seating.
Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, in a communication addressed to state Chief Secretary K Shanmugam, has said that Tamil Nadu’s order, issued on January 4, to increase seating from 50 to 100 percent amounts to dilution of the Ministry of Home Affair’s order dated on December 28.
The MHA guidelines only allow 50 percent capacity in theatres and it would remain in force till January 31, the Union Home Secretary wrote.
The Centre has said that the state shall not dilute the guidelines issued under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 in any manner and shall enforce the same.
“In view of the above, GoTN is requested to immediately issue necessary order to bring their guidelines in line with the MHA guidelines dated 28 December, 2020 and inform compliance to this Ministry,” the direction stated.
This move by the Union government comes in the wake of widespread criticism of the TN government decision extending the seating capacity.
It is believed that TN’s move to allow 100 percent seating in theatres came after actor Vijay, whose movie Master is set to release on Pongal, met Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami personally to request that the seating be increased to full capacity.
Along with Master, Silambarasan’s movie Eswaran is also set to release during Pongal.
Dr Prabhdeep Kaur of the National Institute of Epidemiology, virologist Dr Jacob John and infectious diseases specialist Dr Ram Gopalakrishnan were among some notable experts who came out against the move.
In a viral social post, Aravinth Srinivas, a resident doctor from JIPMER (Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research), wrote in a Facebook post that it was ‘suicidal’ to permit hundred percent occupancy in theaters. “The pandemic isn’t over and we have people dying to the disease,” he wrote.
“I am tired. We are all tired. Thousands of doctors like me are tired. Healthcare workers are tired. Police officials are tired. Sanitary workers are tired,” the resident doctor wrote.
“We don’t have cameras in front of us. We don’t do stunt sequences. We aren’t heroes. But we deserve some time to breathe,” the doctor added.
He said that none of the policymakers or actors were going to put their lives at risk watching movies in the crowd and it only endangers the public.
Dr Kaur tweeted that closed spaces without social distancing are a perfect setting for explosive spread of COVID-19. “I request the public to avoid such settings,” she said.
Dr John called the move “premature” while Dr Gopalakrishnan said “it was not an optimal situation and the move could lead to increase in cases.”
Many netizens on Twitter also questioned actor Vijay, asking whether he would watch the film on the first day in a crowded atmosphere sitting amidst his fans.