The fate of the 2020 Divali Nagar celebrations hangs in limbo says Deokienanan Sharma, the president of the National Council of Indian Culture (NCIC).
In a telephone interview, Sharma told Guardian Media the staging of the national event depends heavily on the guidance and the policies of the relevant authorities during the current COVID-19 crisis, and the development of a vaccine for the disease.
Sharma said the 2020 Nagar was carded for the end of October and would run into early November. The Nagar celebrations take place on the 15-acre site at Narsaloo Ramaya Road, Chaguanas, annually, and attract thousands nightly.
According to Sharma, it is the second largest festival after Carnival. He said such a scenario would make it impossible to practice social distancing since the event is essentially a cultural and social event that facilitates public interaction.
The NCIC president said staging a watered-down version of the Nagar would not make any sense since it would defeat the purpose of the event. He said in 2019, the event attracted over 100 booth exhibitors. However, he said the NCIC has not sent out any invitations for persons to apply for booths for 2020, because of the current coronavirus crisis.
80-year-old Sharma said he was very concerned about the health of the many elderly persons who attend the Nagar and noted that Jamaica already has ordered persons over the age of 70 years to stay at home.
Sharma said public health and the safety of all nationals take precedence over any celebration or festivity.