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Devotees use four entrances at Golden Temple, Health Department says aware of only one

After the lifting of the curfew, devotees have been thronging to the holy shrine again. While social distancing is advised, it is not strictly imposed and further it is not common practice among devotees to cover their faces with masks inside.

Written by Kamaldeep Singh Brar | Amritsar | Updated: May 23, 2020 8:05:11 am
Devotees use four entrances at Golden Temple, Health Dept says aware of only one Devotees without masks at the Golden Temple in Amritsar on Friday. (Express Photo by Rana Simranjit Singh)

While four entrances are open for all devotees to enter the premises of the Golden Temple, the state Health Department has been screening devotees only at one. In fact, the Health department has even claimed that it is not aware that devotees have been using any other entrance except the one manned by it.

Nodel Officer for Golden Temple and SMO, Mannawala, Dr Nirmal Singh said: “It is not in my knowledge that four entrances are open for the devotees. SGPC hasn’t informed me about it… Our team has been screening devotees at the Plaza entrance… Sometimes we single out suspected persons who are weak for proper investigation. We have not kept count of number of devotees screened since the coronavirus outbreak.” He added that a 10-member Health Department team is deployed at the Golden Temple.

However, SGPC chief secretary Roop Singh said, “Our responsibility is inside the Golden Temple. How the devotees enter the premises and from where they should enter, it is all related to administration and Heath Department.”

He added: “We had made it very clear that we cannot stop devotees. We cannot close entrance to the Golden Temple in any way. It is not possible. Administration had imposed curfew in the city. When curfew was imposed strictly, then very few devotees were coming because roads leading to the Golden Temple were closed. We have been taking all the precautions inside the Golden Temple. It is for the administration to decide which path they have to open for the devotees to reach the Golden Temple. Roads belong to administration and they can decide which road to open and which one to close. Devotees will obviously use any open road to reach the Golden Temple.”

The Health Department has setup a canopy at the Plaza entrance, however, very small number of devotees have been entering from this side.

Most of the devotees have been entering from the community kitchen entrance, Akal Takht secretariat entrance and from Darshan Deori just opposite the Akal Takht secretariat entrance.

At all four entrances, SGPC employees are deployed to make devotees sanitise their hands.

At the community kitchen entrance, a “donated” sanitisation tunnel has been placed and SGPC workers along police personnel man this side. “We try to control the devotees. Sometimes we ask people in queue to wait so that devotees already inside premises can leave and make space for them. We make attempt to control the number of devotees inside the premises,” said an SGPC official.

After the lifting of the curfew, devotees have been thronging to the holy shrine again. While social distancing is advised, it is not strictly imposed and further it is not common practice among devotees to cover their faces with masks inside.

SMO Nirmal Singh added: “Devotees are not in the habit of wearing masks inside the premises. I have observed that many devotees have an issue with wearing masks after entering inside. Maybe, it has to do something with devotion. We don’t know. We haven’t discussed this issue at any meeting.”

An SGPC official added: “We ask all devotees to maintain social distancing and cover their faces with masks. But you cannot force a devotee to do a particular thing inside the Golden Temple premises. Even outside the Golden Temple, people have been in roaming without masks in the main markets of city. Government should make people strictly wear masks everywhere and then its impact will also be there inside Golden Temple.”

On devotees not wearing masks inside the Golden Temple premises, Roop Singh said: “Our employees repeatedly ask people to cover their faces and most of the devotees do cover their faces.”

Amritsar Civil Surgeon Jugal Kishore didn’t respond to repeated calls. Amritsar Deputy commissioner also could not be reached over the issue.

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