The festival will begin on July 1, which is just over a month away, and lakhs of devotees from across the country are anxiously waiting for the state government’s decision. People were not allowed to participate in the Rath Yatra in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic situation.
“We are not confirming public participation this time also. We cannot say anything on allowing people so early,” Puri district collector Samarth Verma told PTI after attending the first coordination meeting on Rath Yatra was held.
The collector said that the final decision on public participation will be made keeping in view the prevailing COVID-19 situation.
Odisha on Tuesday reported eight new coronavirus cases taking the tally to 12,88,387. There are 90 active cases in the state and no new case was found in Puri district, official sources said.
“We are ready with two plans — one for allowing the public to participate in the festival and the other for holding the event sans them as was done in 2021 and 2022,” Verma said.
If public participation is allowed, the administration expects around 12 to 15 lakh people to turn up for the chariot festival.
“The government should make it clear whether to allow people this time in Rath Yatra as we will have to make arrangements to go and stay in Puri or Bhubaneswar,” a devotee said from Mumbai.
However, it was decided at the first coordination committee meeting that elaborate arrangements will be made for water, electricity, sanitation and medical facilities for the devotees to be congregated for the event, an official said.
The administration will set up 14 temporary medical centres on Grand Road in Puri town and keep 29 ambulances ready, said Revenue Divisional Commissioner (RDC), Central Division, SC Dalai who chaired the meeting.
The three sibling deities are taken out in separate chariots in a procession along Grand Road connecting the Jagannath temple and the Gundicha temple which will become the temporary abode of Lord Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra and Lord Jagannath.
Dalai said that the Works Department has been asked to complete maintenance work of roads in the town before June 20. Altogether 29 parking spots have been identified for the event.