After chairing a meeting of the government constituted sub-committee with representatives of different religious organizations under the banner of the Shillong All Faiths Forum (SAFF), Chief Secretary, MS Roa on Wednesday said the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for reopening of religious places in the state will be finalized in the next meeting.
“We have discussed at length and we have agreed on the SOPs. There will be one more consultation at the level of the Deputy Chief Minister, Prestone Tynsong and then we will finalize the SOPs,” Rao said.
“Tentatively, we said it (reopening of religious places) will be in the first week of October but the final call will be taken in the last week of September (depending on the COVID-19 situation in the state),” said the Chief Secretary.
The President of SAFF, Bishop P. Lyngdoh said that the forum is not pressurizing the government to open up the places of worship in the state. “We have not asked for that as (the decision of) opening up is the prerogative of the government,” he said.
As requested, the forum is just helping the government in formulating the SOPs, informed the Bishop while further stating that whenever the government decides to open up, these SOPs will come into place.
The recommendations made by the SAFF have been taken into consideration and will be amalgamated along with the SOPs of the government. The suggestion regarding the number of attendees in any place of worship should be one-third of the space available has been accepted, he said.
“We have also suggested that in some churches they have a compound attached to the church building. So instead of having church services inside with the spacing earmarked, services can be held outside but not simultaneously,” said Lyngdoh.
“The government SOPs said for special ceremonies, names should be submitted in advance but we say that it is not convenient and that we be allowed to maintain the records and as and when required we will give the names,” he said.
The SAFF President however said that occasions which are not regular like pujas, Muslim festivals or the All Souls Day that involved large crowd, do not fall under the SOPs adding that for these, the particular faith shall have seek special permission and come up with their own SOP.
A member of the SAFF and the President of the Central Puja Committee (CPC), Naba Bhattacharjee said that the CPC will come up with its own SOP which will be uniformed throughout the state for the upcoming Durga Puja celebrations.
He said that the CPC has been asked to submit its SOP and the same will be sent to the respective Deputy Commissioners of the state so that uniformity is maintained.