The Tamil Nadu government has on Friday revoked its decision of permitting 100% seating capacity in the theaters ahead of the Pongal holidays after getting caught up with staunch criticism from the health experts over resuming the theaters to their fullest occupancy by compromising the Center's guidelines in tackling the COVID-19 spread.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami has said that the government is withdrawing the decision of allowing 100% seating capacity in the theaters and multiplexes. By revoking the order of its fullest resumption, the state government has said that the previous order of 50% seating capacity in the theaters will stay effective until further orders. Though the government has blocked the 100% seating capacity, it has permitted the theaters and multiplexes to screen additional shows along with the usual schedule.
The government's new decision has come to effect immediately and it has come hours after the Madras High Court had overruled the state government's order and said that only 50% seating capacity will be in place in the theaters till January 11. The high court has also directed the state government to reconsider its decision of permitting the fullest occupancy and asked the government to respond back.
Earlier, the Central government has also asked the Tamil Nadu government to withdraw its order of 100% of seating capacity. In his letter, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla had addressed to Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary Shanmugam and called the state government to bring the order in line with its guidelines issued on December 28 in which the Center instructed the states to only permit 50% of seating capacity in the theaters and multiplexes.
Following the court's order, direction from the Center, and appeals from the health experts, the Tamil Nadu government has on Friday withdrawn its decision and said that the theaters will be permitted to function with 50% seating capacity. The government has canceled its order passed on January 4, ahead of the Pongal holidays. On Friday, the high court said that it's not proper to prioritize the economic problems when the nation is going through a pandemic.
When the state government passed the order, it had relished the fans to watch the movies in the theaters to celebrate their Pongal holidays. However, on the other hand, it had stirred massive objections and concerns from the health experts who had urged the government to take back its decision. ICMR expert Prabhdeep Kaur, who advises the Tamil Nadu government in containing the COVID-19 spread, said, "Closed spaces without social distancing are perfect settings for the explosive spread of COVID19. Request public to avoid such settings".
Along with Kaur, Dr. Aravinth Srinivas, a resident doctor at Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER) in Puducherry had addressed to the Tamil Nadu government in which he said The pandemic isn’t over and we have people dying till today to the disease. A hundred percent theatre occupancy is a suicide attempt. Rather homicide, for none of the policymakers or the so-called heroes are going to put themselves under the pump, to watch the movie amidst the crowd and Srinivas added that the government's decision is a blatant barter system, trading lives for money.
The state government has ordered 100% seating capacity in the theaters after the Theater Owners Association had requested the government to permit the fullest occupancy in the wake of Pongal. Besides the association, actors Vijay and Simbu had also requested the Chief Minister to permit 100% seating capacity as Vijay starred 'Master' and Simbu starred 'Easwaran' will be releasing in the theaters during Pongal- on January 13 and 14 respectively across the state. However, the state government has now unveiled a sudden twist and withdrawing its order of permitting 100% seating capacity.