The Uttar Pradesh government on Wednesday issued an order saying officials on "field duty" will not be granted leave till November 30. The instructions come on the last day of the Supreme Court hearing in the Ayodhya land dispute case. The official order, however, attributed the decision to the festival season.
Officials considered to be on field duties include police officers posted at the district and lower levels, as well as district magistrates.
In the order, Additional Chief Secretary Mukul Singhal said the government after deliberations decided that in view of the coming festival season, no official should be granted leave, unless in the most unavoidable circumstances, till November 30.
The order also directed the officials to remain present at the headquarters of their respective places of posting. Singhal said strict compliance of the order must be ensured.
Director Information, Shishir, said, "The cancellation of duties during festival season is a normal thing and there is nothing unusual in it."
Besides Diwali, other festivals falling in the second fortnight of this month include Karva Chauth, Chehallum Dhanteras, Chhoti Diwali, Diwali, Govardhan Puja and Bhaiya Dooj.
Chhath (sun worship) festival, barawafat, Guru Nanak Jayanti/Kartik Purnima are slated in the first fortnight of November. Asked what made the government extend the order for the entire month when festivals are over much before November end, Shishir said he had no information.
The Uttar Pradesh administration last week imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 CrPC in Ayodhya till December 10 ahead of the Supreme Court order in the politically sensitive Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case.
Section 144 prohibits assembly of four or more people and empowers police to book people for rioting.
Posting the order on his official Twitter account, District Magistrate Anuj Kumar Jha said, "The order has been issued considering safety and security of Ayodhya and those visiting here as Govt's paramount concerns."
"I must add that already there is another order in force since 31.08.2019 covering aspects of unlawful assemblies and undesirable activities. The order dated 12.10.2019 has been issued to cover a couple of points which were not there in the earlier order," he added.
Jha told PTI that the order also restricts drones, unmanned aerial vehicle for filming and shooting inside Ayodhya. The sale and purchase of crackers will not be allowed on the occasion of Diwali without permission of the magistrate.
The administration has also demanded a large number of security forces to maintain law and order and communal harmony.