Lack of planning, protection for staff led to Tirupati COVID-19 cases: Ex-chief priest

Dr AV Ramana Dikshitulu, the ex-chief priest at the Tirumala temple, was reacting to the death of Srinivasa Murthy Dikshitulu, the former head priest who tested positive for coronavirus.
Lack of planning, protection for staff led to Tirupati COVID-19 cases: Ex-chief priest
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A lack of adequate planning led to a steep rise in COVID-19 cases at Tirupati, ex-chief priest Ramana Dikshitulu said on Monday, while reacting to the death of the 73-year-old former priest of the Tirumala temple, Srinivasa Murthy Dikshitulu. Srinivasa passed away due to comorbidities on Sunday morning after testing positive for coronavirus.

Speaking to TNM, Dr AV Ramana Dikshitulu said that since being forced to retire as a head priest of the temple in 2018, Srinivasa was under severe depression, “He was under severe depression from the day he was made to retire. He was kept away from doing service in the temple to the lord. He was weak and succumbed to corona.”

In 2018, Ramana Dikshitulu along with four other priests were sacked after he alleged that several old precious jewels went missing from Tirumala and also made claims of financial irregularities within the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD). He had also called for the TTD to be brought under the Right to Information Act.

The priest had also moved the Andhra Pradesh High Court against his removal from the post and was slapped with a Rs 100 crore defamation suit by the TTD. Though Ramana was reinstated a year later once the Jagan Mohan Reddy-led government came to power, the four other priests removed with him were not, and their vacant posts were filled later by the TTD.

Since the start of the pandemic, so far, 140 people posted at the temple have tested positive for the coronavirus, TTD chairman YV Subba Reddy had earlier stated. A row also erupted over the decision to keep the Tirumala temple open in the middle of a pandemic.

“Some more results are awaited, I don't know how many priests will be positive,” said Ramana, who added that rituals shouldn't be stopped at the temple even for one day for the want of priests. “We have to protect the priests from coronavirus disease in the interest of continuing rituals at the temple. I am requesting the TTD board chairman and Executive Officer (EO) to extend the usual honours to the expired former chief and provide financial assistance to the family of the priest,” the ex-head priest added.

Ramana is of the view that the spread of the disease could have been avoided if the temple was shut earlier and the priests protected  “We could have avoided contact with the VIP darshans. This spread is due to the lack of proper planning to protect the people working at the temple,” he added.

Speaking to TNM, YV Subba Reddy expressed condolences for the deceased priest while adding that the priest hasn't been part of the temple rituals since his health deteriorated over a year ago. “He hasn't been part of the temple rituals for more than a year due to his health, he had kidney ailments but used to visit the temple. But those visits stopped after some people objected to him bringing the urine bag to the temple premises.”

Urine bags, also called Urostomy pouches, are bags mostly used by patients who are undergoing kidney-related treatment or surgery.

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