At its meeting on Wednesday, May 5th, the Governing Body Commission (GBC) of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) discussed the urgent need for stricter implementation of health safety protocols at its international headquarters in Mayapur, India. At the meeting, GBC members expressed their exasperation and worry that videos and other reports from Mayapur showed that some devotees were disregarding ISKCON’s health policies regarding the Covid crisis, and were thus placing themselves and others at risk.
A committee was formed of GBC members BB Govinda Swami, Radhanath Swami, Anuttama das, and Radha Krishna das to compile specific recommendations. A special GBC meeting was held on Friday, May 7th, to finalize new directives for Mayapur.
On May 5th, the same day the GBC held their meeting, the Government of West Bengal established a new protocol of its own, including strict limits on the size of family events like marriages and funerals, the closing of shops, restaurants, etc.
The May 7th GBC Directive has three parts: 1) To strictly follow the new West Bengal government mandates; 2) To strictly follow additional practices provided by a team of medical experts affiliated with ISKCON, and 3) To strictly follow the ISKCON Deity Ministry Covid health policies for temple worship. Regular reporting to the GBC is required to ensure the standards are strictly implemented.
The full GBC resolution is below.
Resolved: “COVID Protocols for Mayapur”
May 7, 2021
The GBC issues the following Directives to the Mayapur temple authorities to take immediate effect.
I) The GBC directs the Mayapur temple authorities to strictly follow the West Bengal Government Order, issued 5th May 2021 (Ref# No.629-ISS/2M-22/2020). The original full document is here: WBG-Order-5-May-2021.pdf
Wherein points that specifically relate to operations in Mayapur include:
5) All shopping complexes, malls … restaurants… will remain closed.
6) All public gatherings including social/political/academic entertainment-related gatherings shall be prohibited. For cultural and religious programmes, assembly/gathering of up to 50 persons only with physical distancing and COVID-consistent behaviour may be permitted with the prior permission of local authorities / with notification to administration. In familial gatherings like marriage, not more than 50 persons will be allowed at a time in any program-place. At the funeral, not more than 20 persons will be allowed.
12) Further it is advised that:
◦ Wearing of masks, maintenance of physical distancing and COVID-related health and hygiene protocols must be followed at all times.
◦ Sanitization of offices, workplaces, bazaars, industrial units, commercial establishments must be carried out at regular intervals.
II) The GBC directs the Mayapur temple authorities to follow all the COVID-related guidelines set out by the Deity Ministry.
III) The GBC directs the Mayapur temple authorities to follow all the COVID-related guidelines set out by a group of expert devotee doctors headed by Madhavananda das (Bhaktivedanta Hospital). (Document attached: general-guidelines-for-temples.pdf)
IV) The GBC directs the Mayapur temple authorities to organise an “Education and Information Campaign” for the Mayapur devotees about COVID Protocols to ensure that devotees understand the above requirements so as to protect their health and the health of others.
V) The Mayapur temple authorities are directed to report and communicate to the GBC EC fortnightly during the crises, or otherwise suggested by the GBC EC regarding the implementation of the above.
The Mayapur temple authorities must report back to EC if any of the above-mentioned directives or recommendations are not followed. The EC will then present that information to the GBC for their deliberation.
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