The Centre has urged the Tamil Nadu government to revoke its order of permitting 100 per cent occupancy in cinemas/theatres/multiplexes even as major films are being planned for release on January 14 on the occasion of the Pongal festival.
Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, in a letter to Chief Secretary K Shanmugam, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines say that cinemas/theatres/multiplexes have been permitted outside containment zones with up to 50 per cent capacity.
The State government, on January 4, permitted to increase the seating capacity to 100 per cent. This amounts to dilution of the MHA order issued on December 28. “I would like to draw your kind attention to para 21 and 23 of these guidelines which state that the State/UT governments shall not dilute these guidelines issued under the DM Act 2005 in any manner and shall strictly enforce the same,” the letter said.
Further, on December 18, in a suo motu writ petition, the Supreme Court issued directions to State governments for strict enforcement of guidelines/SOPs issued by the Union/State governments for strict compliance on Covid-19-appropriate behaviours such as wearing of masks, keeping social distancing – stern action against those who are violating guidelines/SOPs regulation of gatherings.
“In view of the above, the Government of Tamil Nadu is requested to immediately issue necessary order to bring its guidelines in line with the MHA guidelines and inform compliance to the Ministry,” the letter said.
The State government’s permission for 100 per cent seating capacity at cinemas/theatres/multiplexes came as a big relief for the cinema industry as two major films Vijay starrer Master and Simbu’s Easwaran – are to be released on Pongal. The announcement came after a meeting between Vijay and Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami a few days ago wherein the actor urged the State government to allow 100 per cent seating.
The cinema/theatres in the State have been shut since end-March last year end due to the Covid-19 pandemic. They were permitted to open from November 10, 2020 with 50 per cent of their seating capacity by following the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).
Based on the decrease in the Covid-19 cases day-by-day, the Theatre Owners Association had represented the government to increase the seating capacity of cinemas/theatres/multiplexes to 100 per per cent, the government order said.
However, the State government’s order evoked mixed response with a section welcoming it while another opposing it stating, it could lead to another ‘cluster.’
Prabhdeep Kaur, ICMR Scientist, in a tweet said, “Closed spaces without social distancing are perfect setting for explosive spread of #COVID19. Request the public to avoid such settings.”