Ahead of Uttarayan/Makar Sankranti festival on January 14, the state government issued a notification on Friday allowing the festival to be celebrated within housing societies across the state while prohibiting kite-flying at public places even as the Gujarat High Court also agreed to the steps listed by the state government in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As per the notification released by KK Nirala, additional secretary (Law and Order) Home Department, of the Gujarat government, “Any act of flying kite or assembling of persons at public places, open grounds or roads/streets will be prohibited. In view of ongoing pandemic, it is advised that people should celebrate the festival with their close family members only. It is prohibited for people to assemble at public places…”
It added, “Apart from members of housing society, entry of outsiders in the societies for the celebrations will be prohibited and action will be taken against the society management in case of violations. Performance of DJs or playing music system which can invite large assembly of people will remain prohibited and people in large numbers cannot assemble inside societies. It is advised for people above the age of 65, pregnant women and kids below 10 years of age to stay at home. The night curfew in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Rajkot from 10 pm to 6 am will continue (sic).”
The notification order will be in effect from January 9 to 17.
The state government on Friday told the high court that while it does not plan to ban the Uttarayan celebration completely, kite flying will not be allowed in public places.
In the 13-point guideline submitted before the high court, the state government said that people staying in housing societies will be permitted to fly kites on their terraces and open grounds only.
A division bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice JB Pardiwala directed state government to add to the said clause that in case of breach, secretary of the residents welfare association or housing society concerned shall be held responsible.
Two petitions related to Uttarayan were moved by private parties with one litigation primarily seeking a ban on celebrations in the state and a second litigation seeking protection of livelihoods of those involved in the kite industry.
At an earlier hearing of Covid-19 matters, the HC bench directed Advocate General Kamal Trivedi to take instructions from the state government on how it plans to check Uttarayan celebrations so that Covid-19 spread remains under control.
Trivedi on Friday listed out 13 steps that the Gujarat government plans to take, which were arrived at after a “brainstorming session”, subject to the bench’s approval.
As listed by Trivedi, “no gathering and flying of kites at public spaces, open grounds/roads are allowed” and “no person other than the residents of the flats or society shall be allowed on the terraces of the buildings/flat or open ground of residential societies.”
To the latter clause, the bench added that to bring about checks and balances to the rule, the state government must also add that secretaries of RWAs/residential societies shall be held responsible for any breach.
The state government also added to the list of clauses that “large gathering on terrace of buildings/flat or open ground of residential societies is prohibited” and “use of loudspeakers/music systems are prohibited as it may attract large gatherings, which may increase risk of infection of Covid-19.”
As per Trivedi’s submission, the state government has strived to “strike a balance” as shutting down sale of kites was not a “sustainable” solution. As per the state government’s submission, the kite-making industry in 2020 saw a turnover of Rs 625 crores, involving 1.25 lakh families.
“To stop it totally perhaps wouldn’t be right…but we will be very careful. We have burnt our fingers once (by being lackadaisical during Diwali, several legacy markets and shopping areas seeing overcrowding and violation of standard Covid-19 protocol) due to which we saw a spike after Diwali,” submitted the advocate general.
The state also submitted before the court that curfew imposed in police commissionerate areas of Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Rajkot city in the state “shall be strictly implemented.”
The state government also submitted before the bench that “no one is allowed to display any writing/slogans/pictures etc on kites that may affect sentiment of society and disturb public tranquility.”
Use of Chinese sky lanterns, chimes tukkals, synthetic or glass-coated manja (kite flying thread), are “strictly prohibited,” which will be part of the state-issued 13-point SoP.
Usual Covid-19 protocols of maintaining social distance, mask at all times, prohibition on large gatherings, provision of sanitisers, will continue to be in place.
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