New Delhi: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has asked the Tamil Nadu government to roll back its decision to allow full occupancy in movie theatres, saying that state governments are not allowed to dilute the ministry’s COVID-19 guidelines.

In a communication sent to Tamil Nadu chief secretary K. Shanmugam, Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla said the January 4 order permitting full occupancy in theatres “amounts to a dilution” of the MHA’s December 28, 2020, order.

The MHA’s guidelines only permit cinemas/multiplexes to fill 50% of their seats, he said, adding that state governments cannot dilute them in any manner and shall strictly enforce them.

“In view of the above, the government of Tamil Nadu is requested to immediately issue necessary order to bring their guidelines in line with the MHA guidelines dated December 28, 2020, and inform compliance to this Ministry,” the communication, dated January 5, says, according to The Hindu.

A senior Tamil Nadu government official also told the newspaper that the chief minister has been notified about the communication.

The Palaniswamy government’s decision to allow 100% occupancy in theatres came soon after a meeting helding with actor Vijay and a representation from the Theatre Owners’ Association. Vijay’s film Master is slated for release soon.

The order came under criticism from health and medical experts, who said it could results in a spike in COVID-19 cases.

West Bengal

In West Bengal ,a theatre owners’ association sought chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s nod to allow full occupnay, citing huge losses and “no instance of the spread of COVID-19 through cinema halls”.

“There has been no report on the spread of the pandemic by way of screening of films in cinema halls in and around the country since the time the halls reopened,” the letter signed by Eastern India Motion Pictures Association (EIMPA) president Piya Sengupta, sent to Banerjee on Tuesday evening, said.

The letter referred also referred to the notification issued by the Tamil Nadu government.

Striking a different note, Navina Cinema owner Navin Chokhani, however, said, “I will welcome the increasing of theatre occupancy to 100 per cent only when I am sure that it won’t affect the safety of our audience and employees.”

“If that is not possible now, we should wait for a few more months for the pandemic to subside fully,” he said.

Chokhani said Navina Cinema has registered 10 times lesser turnout this Christmas-New Year season as compared to previous years, but expressed hope that the situation will change.


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