MHA opposes Tamil Nadu move to allow 100% occupancy in cinemas, multiplexes

A worker cleans chairs at a cinema hall as part of preparations for a possible reopening after the government eased lockdown restrictions previously imposed due to the Covid-19 coronavirus, in Chennai on Thursday.
The Centre has stepped in after Covid-19 fears couldn’t apparently contain the craze for cinema in Tamil Nadu.


Two days after the state government permitted theatres to run with 100 per cent capacity, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) wrote a letter to the Tamil Nadu chief secretary calling the order a violation of its guidelines. The MHA’s guidelines allow not more than 50 per cent seat occupancy in theatres.


In the letter, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said that the state government’s decision to increase the seating capacity of cinemas from 50 to 100 per cent amounted to dilution of an MHA order dated December 28, 2020.


The letter added pointed out that the ministry's guidelines demand strict adherence from governments in states and Union Territories. It also said that the Supreme Court had issued directions to state governments to strictly enforce the guidelines and standard operating procedures issued by the Union government, including compliance of Covid-19 related norms such as wearing of masks and maintaining social distance, and stern action against offenders.


The home secretary has asked the Tamil Nadu government to immediately issue an order bringing the latter’s guidelines in line with those of the MHA.


Tamil Nadu's decision on Monday to remove the 50 per cent cap on theatre occupancy has drawn flak from various sections. The state government had defended the decision citing that Covid-19 infections were coming down in Tamil Nadu. However, new clusters of coronavirus cases — including star hotels and the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras — continue to emerge.


Its decision came days after a meeting between actor Vijay and Chief Minister K Palaniswami. It was reported that the popular actor requested the chief minister to allow 100 per cent occupancy in theatres. Vijay’s movie, Master, is set to be released during Pongal. A number of big-ticket movies are slated for release during the harvest festival in the middle of this month.


In the last 24 hours, Tamil Nadu reported 811 new Covid-19 cases, of which 228 were from Chennai. Across the state 63,268 people were tested on Wednesday, while 943 patients were discharged and 11 people died. The total number of Covid-19 cases stands at 823,181 with 12,188 deaths. As many as 803,328 people have recovered so far.



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