Even as the state government has decided to install CCTVs in all major religious places in Himachal Pradesh in the midst of COVID-19 for an altogether different purpose, among other benefits of ‘activity recording’, the decision may do some good to temples in HP as a ‘side-effect’, as it will protect the precious idols and ornaments of Gods and Goddesses from theft in the long run.

Chief Minister, Jai Ram Thakur on Monday told Deputy Commissioners to provide details of major religious places in their districts so that CCTVs could be installed there.

The direction came in the wake of some members of Tablighi Jamaat reportedly staying in a ‘masjid’ in Una after return from ‘Markaz’ in Nizamuddin, Delhi on 21 March and not disclosing the travel, whereby causing COVID-19 threat to others as well. So far, out of 18 COVID-19 cases in Himachal Pradesh, 11 are from Tablighi jamaat.

As many as 421 Tablighi jamaat members, including their families and contacts, have been quarantined in Himachal so far as a fallout. Out of seven others, four had chosen to go outside the state for treatment, two were discharged from hospital after they tested negative and one had died.

While all temples in Himachal Pradesh were closed for the general public with a government order much before COVID-19 lockdown to prevent the spread as temples in Himachal are usually witness to heavy rush of pilgrims, and Navratras too were approaching. Other religious places were also closed in a similar way.

The CCTVs to be installed in temples would certainly help stop the thefts of idols, which will again be one of the concerns in Himachal for all times to come when COVID-19 situation eases.

The hill state has over 2,000 temples and monasteries that are centuries old. Of these, 60 are under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) while over 30 are under the state language, art and culture department.

According to reports, thefts in temples across the state have been frequent over the last two decades and many precious and antique idols from small and big temples, mostly from the interiors of the state, have been stolen over the years, with no trace of them whatsoever in many cases. Only in few of them, the original idols of Gods could be recovered and kept back in temples.

The phenomenon of ‘missing Gods’ could, however, be checked to an extent in prominent temples, many of whom have been taken over by the government and got the CCTV cameras installed with Police insistence.

“It is yet to be seen as to how the government order is to be implemented. As for as Police is concerned, we have given directions to the temple committees several times in past to install CCTV cameras in temple premises for vigilance in view of idol thefts. We have been telling them to take other measures also to protect the temples. The temples under government control have been following instructions, but not others,” Superintendent of Police, Law and Order, Khushal Sharma told The Statesman.

It is pertinent to mention that despite a large number of thefts, the state has no policy on protecting and preserving antiques. There is no stocktaking either of antique idols and other objects lying in temple in Himachal on regular basis.