MUMBAI: Even as the state government is yet to make a formal announcement on allowing travel to Konkan for Ganeshotsav, villages in the two districts of Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri have already finalized a standard operating procedure for visitors to keep the Covid-19 pandemic in check.
District authorities have also set up screening centres at check points where rapid antigen tests will be conducted in case they find anyone with Covid symptoms.
Transport minister Anil Parab said the government is considering allowing travel to Konkan but safety guidelines will be issued soon. Sources said a formal decision may be announced on Sunday, following a transport department meeting with chief minister Uddhav Thackeray.
Political observers say if the government, which has been conservative in “unlocking” the state, allows travel for the festival, the decision would be political in nature as Konkan is a Shiv Sena vote bank.
Locals say if the government allows people to travel to their districts, they cannot stop them, but are worried. “We will go by the government’s decision, but most villages have decided to impose a 14-day quarantine for all those who come for the festival. Accordingly, many villages have set a deadline after which travellers will not be allowed in,” said Ramakant Raut, sarpanch of Kharepatan village, the first entry point from Mumbai into Sindhudurg district. Ganeshotsav begins on August 22.
Every Ganeshotsav, two to three lakh people from Mumbai and Pune visit their hometowns in Konkan.
“We are anticipating the festivities within the villages to be subdued this year. We have also said there will not be any community bhajans or artis and people who have travelled out will not be allowed to visit other people’s homes for darshan,” said Rameshwar Parab from Kharepatan.
Vandri village in Sangameshwar taluka, Ratnagiri, has marked August 5 as the deadline for arrival of devotees. The village has a gram kruti dal (vigilance committee), comprising locals who keep a watch on the bus stand. “A few members keep a watch on outsiders arriving by ST buses. Each person alighting from a bus will be sanitized before they can enter the village,” said Anisha Nagvekar, sarpanch of Vandri.
Inadequate health infrastructure is another reason why the district administration is worried about a large number of people being allowed into the districts. As on Saturday, there were 1,700 Covid cases in Ratnagiri and only 368 in Sindhudurg.
Datta Bhadakwad, resident deputy collector of Ratnagiri and in-charge of health services in the district, said: “The administration is ready for the expected crowd for the festival. We cannot ask them not to come but we have made arrangements in every taluka to screen them. The district has 67 primary healthcare centres.
Vasant Tambe, sarpanch of Bhoo village in Rajapur taluka, Ratnagiri, said they have instructed villagers to follow all state guidelines. “To ensure social distancing, we have decided not to gather for artis,” said Tambe whose village comprises 12 wadis (hamlets) with a total population of 2,300. “Each person who arrives from Mumbai or Pune will have to first undergo a Covid test at a centre,” added Tambe.
There are many, though, who will skip the visit this year. Pensioner Rajaram Kuvare, member of Gram Vikas Mandal from Taral village in Ratnagiri, said he has been visiting Konkan for the festival for years. He will not proceed this time, though, to “avoid getting and spreading the infection”.

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