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Maharashtra brings on theatre artists to convince people to follow Covid norms as cases plateau

Local artists will put on folk performances & plays to underline importance of masking, social distancing, vaccinating apart from urging people to limit social & religious gatherings.

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Mumbai: From telling people to hold low-key weddings, celebrate festivals and religious events cautiously, and wear masks at all times, to explaining the government’s rule book on Covid-appropriate behaviour and addressing hesitancy in getting vaccinated, the Maharashtra government is planning to use theatre artists to spread the word on pandemic protocol.

The state tourism and cultural affairs department will implement the idea across Maharashtra’s 36 districts in both cities and rural areas. A budget of Rs 5 crore has been allocated for the project.

An official from the department, who did not wish to be named, told ThePrint, “We want to spread the message at the ground level on a number of things such as the importance of holding small weddings, toning down religious events, celebrations of festivals and other traditions, give people information on how to take care of old people and children at home, the importance of washing hands and wearing a mask and so on. The experimental theatre artists can do that in an innovative way. These artists will also give information on vaccines available and urge people to go for their shots.”

This, the government hopes, will also help prevent complacency in people about following Covid safety measures, which has been cited as one of the reasons for the second surge in cases.

Also read: 11 top doctors handpicked by Uddhav Thackeray have led Maharashtra’s Covid war for a year

Message on ground

The state department official quoted above said the shows could be solo folk performances, such as Vasudev and Bahurupi, or an act by a group of two to three artists, he added.

“We will give preference to local artists from every district. The directorate of cultural affairs in Mumbai will work with the information and publicity department to draw up a list of artists,” he added.

At the local level, the official added, the district collector will decide how many theatre performances to hold and their subject, as well as the location and time of the performances to ensure crowds don’t gather.

Maharashtra has been one of the worst-hit states in both waves of the pandemic. The number of new cases each day has just started to plateau after a surge in early April. According to the state health bulletin, Maharashtra recorded 57,640 Covid cases and 920 Covid deaths Wednesday. So far, the state government has recorded 48,80,542 Covid positive cases, of which 6,41,596 are currently active.

During the first wave of the pandemic last year, the state had to grapple with a sudden spike in cases just as it was flattening the curve, owing to festivals such as the 10-day Ganapati festival and Diwali, which witnessed mass gatherings.

Later, as the state cautiously opened up after last year’s strict Covid lockdown, following a decline in the number of cases being reported, people became complacent about following preventive measures such as wearing masks and social distancing. Experts say this contributed to the second wave.

The government hopes the messaging by the folk artistes will prevent a repeat of this.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

Also read: This is how Uddhav Thackeray ensured new Maharashtra lockdown avoids 2020 ‘mistakes’


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