Tirupati: With nearly 56,000 devotees visiting Tirumala every day, the hill shrine of Sri Venkateswara temple in Andhra Pradesh is once again emerging as a hotbed of pandemic Corona.
What happened on February 19, Rathasapthami festival day was a record 1.5 lakh congregation of devotees in spite of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) claim of allowing only ticket and token holders to Tirumala for the mini Brahmotsavam of seven Vahana sevas on Mada streets of Tirumala on a single day.
With the onset of summer heat the pandemic is making a second run in Andhra Pradesh and particularly in Chittoor district, a tri junction of three states-AP, Karnataka & Tamilnadu. The district and Tirupati which gets over One lakh pilgrims daily by road, rail and air, is in the eye of Corona pandemic as latest statics released by the AP health department indicated.
As on March 7 there were 89,0692 active Corona positives. and the death toll in the state was 7174. In the last 24 hours 136 positives in the state of which a person had died in Tirupati. A government health bulletin said the number of positives had been on the rise up to 1000 since the last two weeks and need for more testing and quarantine of positives. Besides a large number of positives had also gone missing from quarantines.
In this scenario TTD which managed the Tirumala shrine and host of other temples in Tirupati had recorded huge footfalls in spite of Covid guidelines etc. it issued 20,000 Tickets of Rs 300 special Darshan and another 20,000 tokens at Tirupati on Aadhar cards for those not online savvy devotees. It has a heavy of VIPs for ‘break Darshan’ of at least 2-5 thousands .
Briefing the media persons after TTD EO Dr KS Jawahar Reddy said on Friday, March 5 that in the month of February 14.41 lakh pilgrims had Srivari darshan and hundi collections stood at Rs 90.45 crore.
The number of laddus sales recorded 76.61 lakh, Annaprasadam served to 21 lakh pilgrims while 6.72 lakh pilgrims offered their hairs all in spite of Covid guidelines against huge congregations, social distancing and need for sanitization
TTD has also disclosed that its revenue despite the lockdown in the pandemic year 2020-21 was Rs 2653.67 crore including Hundi collections of Rs 731 crore and laddus sale of Rs 170 crore. In spite of pandemic and loss of revenue due to lack of devotees for 4 months from March-June, its salary payments were Rs 1238 crore for its 8000 permanent and 12,000 temporary staff.
Sources in TTD contend that unless they allow Srivari Darshan by opening the temple and put up festivals and special events as attractions, the temple will be starved of revenue and fail in maintaining its huge activities in educational and medical and Dharmic institutions. “We are gradually upping our activities after fulfilling all Covid guidelines on demand from devotees only” says a senior spokesman of TTD.
Whatever defence the TTD has put up, the huge gatherings at Tirumala and at Tirupati temples etc where Vigilance is low are a mega sources for pandemic to make a 2.0 run very easy and perhaps more deadly. Time for both lawmakers and the administration of TTD and also devotees to resolve the situation in the best interests of all. (UNI)