Two days after the State government permitted theatres to operate with 100% occupancy, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Wednesday warned the AIADMK government not to dilute the COVID-19 guidelines prescribed by the Centre in connection with the reopening of cinema theatres which restricted occupancy rate to just 50% vide order dated Nov 25, 2020 and this was extended until January 31, 2021.
The Centre has also sought TN to immediately issue necessary orders to bring the state in compliance with the Centre’s guidelines and inform the same to the Union Ministry.
Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, in an official communique to the Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary K Shanmugham, stated, “The Government of TN vide their notification GO (MS) No. 001 dated 04.01.2021 has permitted to increase the seating capacity of cinemas/theatres/multiplexes from existing 50% capacity to 100% by following Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). This amounts to dilution of MHA order dated 28 December 2020 issued under DM Act 2005.’ The letter also pointed out that the Supreme Court in a suo motu writ petition passed necessary orders for all states to strictly adhere to the SOPs issued by the Centre.
The State government’s decision had come after actor Vijay recently met Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and requested the State to allow 100 per cent occupancy of seats in theatres in view of the release of Master during Pongal.
Lokesh Kanagaraj, director of the film, told reporters that since all businesses have opened in full strength, movie theatres also could operate with full occupancy. “AC buses have started plying intracity and usually take five to six hours. The scenario is pretty much the same, except that Master is a little under three hours,” he said, adding, “The pandemic is new to all of us. I believe theatres will be strict while checking temperatures and stop people who show any symptoms.”
TN parties remain silent over Centre’s intervention on theatre occupancy
As the Union Home Ministry repudiated the move to allow 100 per cent occupancy in theatres in Tamil Nadu, a slighted ruling AIADMK has kept unusually calm. Even an otherwise outspoken DMK has been reticent in its response to the government’s handling of the theatre issue.
The ruling AIADMK, if sources were to be believed, has got into a huddle, understandably, to announce a rollback of its decision. Likewise, principal opposition party DMK has been guarded in its response to avoid antagonising actor Vijay’s fans. Stalin, who was quick to scrutinise every COVID related decision of Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, has not been very vocal on allowing 100 per cent occupancy in theaters ahead of an election season.
A DMK senior unwilling to be quoted admitted that they have no reason to go hard on EPS knowing pretty well that the decision was politically motivated. Conceding that their high command was not at its critical best on the theatre issue, the DMK insider said, “AIADMK obliged Vijay. Their ally BJP, does not want them to allow full theatre occupancy. They thought it would be a political master stroke. It has backfired. Let them do the explaining to the actors and Kollywood.” Asked about the DMK’s unusual silence on the theater issue, DMK organising secretary RS Bharathi said, “They (AIADMK regime) made the decision to satisfy someone. It was a decision made for political gains. Our leader (Stalin) has been insisting from the beginning that COVID protocols like social distancing should be strictly followed to avoid disease spread. We have been strictly instructed to follow in our meetings too.” Curiously, it was not just the DMK which has been guarded in its reaction. Barring a few individuals like Congress MP Karti Chidambaram, not many politicians in the opposition rank have gone vocal on the issue thus far.