The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) will be holding an emergency meeting of officials and priests on Saturday to discuss the demand for a temporary suspension of darshan for devotees in view of increasing number of archakas (assitant priests) testing positive for coronavirus.
It is all likely that the TTD could temporarily suspend darshans as 18 archakas (assitant priests) were tested positive for Covid-19. According to reports, Pedda Jeeyar and Chinna Jeeyar were also tested positve for the infection.
Pedda jeeyar being shifted to Apollo hospitals in chennai with his health condition deteoriating. Worried over the increasing number of priests contracting the virus after the reopening of darshan post-lockdown, the TTD is seriously mulling to temporarily halt Sri Vari darshan to devotees.
On July 16, temple honorary priest Ramana Deekshitulu took to his Twitter handle to demand that the darshans be temporarily stopped in view of an alarming increase in Covid-19 cases among the priests and devotees alike.
In his tweet, Deekshitulu had stated that at least 15 archakas (priests) contracted the deadly Covid-19 infection. “Out of the 50 priests in Sri Vari temple, 15 archakas were tested positive for the corona virus. Additionally, test results of 25 archakas are awaited. The TTD should temporarily suspend darshans. Despite the archakas contracting the virus, the TTD has not stopped allowing darshans. The current political dispensation is following the anti-Brahmanical policies of Chandrababu Naidu. One can expect a major disaster in Tirmuala if the Chief Minister fails to respond to the current situation in Tirumala,” he had tweeted.
The TTD Staff and Workers United Front had also written to the TTD Executive Officer requesting that darshan at the temple be temporarily suspended. Apart from archakas, at least 140 TTD employees are known to have tested positive for Covid-19.
However, TTD Trust Board chairman Y V Subba Reddy in July 16 ruled out suspension of darshans while reacting to Deekshitulu’s tweet. Further, Subba Reddy claimed that 70 of the infected had been discharged and the rest were undergoing treatment. Less than 12,000 devotees will be allowed to enter the temple daily, he said.
On July 4, Subba Reddy claimed that not even a single devotee tested positive for COVID-19 since resumption of services at the Venkateswara temple in Tirumala on June 8. He had claimed that only 17 employees of the devasthanams tested positive.
Reacting sharply to Ramana Dikshitulu, Subba Reddy advised the honorary chief priest to put forth any issue before the TTD Trust Board and desist from making public statements. Further, Subba Reddy stated that he had directed the TTD officials to discuss the issues being brought to the fore by Ramana Dikshitulu.
“Ramana Dikshitulu was appointed as honorary chief priest by Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy. We have taken all necessary measures to protect the priests. The TTD Trust Board is also willing to temporarily suspend darshans in the interests of archakas,” Subba Reddy said.
Meanwhile, TTD Executive Officer Anil Kumar Singhal said, “None of the devotees have any health issues. We called 700 devotees between June 18 to 24 and called 1,943 devotees between July 1 to 7. All of them replied that they are healthy,” However, according to some reports, hundreds of TTD staff and devotees tested positive for the virus ever since Tirumala temple reopened on June 11 which remained shut for nearly 85 days due to the lockdown.