65,299 religious places in AP mapped, geo-tagged and 51,053 CCTV cameras installed

AP is the first and only state to use geo-tagging and mapping technology for the safety and protection of religious places

VIJAYAWADA: In a first-of-its-kind act, as many as 65,299 religious places in AP were mapped and geo-tagged and 51,053 CCTV cameras installed in temples for continuous monitoring of the surroundings.

Temple-related offences have decreased in the state in 2021, with 48 cases, compared to 145 in 2020. AP is the first and only state to use geo-tagging and mapping technology for safety and protection of religious places.

The opposition parties mainly Telugu Desam, BJP and Jana Sena staged numerous protests and agitations against the desecration of holy idols and attacks on temples in 2016. This was shortly after the YSRC government took charge.

The state BJP president Somu Veerraju conducted a Temples Yatra and the ruling YSR Congress countered the opposition parties by recalling the demolition of 40 odd Hindu temples in Vijayawada itself during the TD government’s term – or during Krishna Pushakarams.

Faced with criticism, the YSRC government acted on a war footing and started reconstruction of demolished temples and initiated strict security measures through the AP Police department to ensure such actions did not repeat. This helped.

The YSRC government, in fact, suspected an Opposition plot to tarnish the image of the state government and create communal problems in AP.

The police department thereon conducted a survey of religious places in all the 13 districts and held meetings with the committees of various religious places vis-à-vis their security and protection. The police set up Grama Rakshana Dals (village defense squads) and Communal Harmony Committees to look after the safety and security of all religious places in coordination with the police department.

According to reports, the highest of temple offences -- 200 --were registered in 2016 followed by 152 in 2017, 126 in 2018, 171 in 2019 and 145 in 2020. The temples offences largely decreased to 33 per cent this year, with a recording of only 48 offences compared to 145 the past year.

Hindu religious activist D Srinivas said the decrease in temple-related offences is a good sign. But, apart from installing round-the-clock surveillance systems, such crimes continued to be committed. He urged the police to make security and surveillance mandatory for every small, medium and big religious place.

DGP Gautam Sawang said that as part of the temple protection steps taken by the AP police, officials have arrested 632 such criminals while 323 offences were detected. These included previous cases too. The department has carried out a security audit while CCTVs, fire-fighting equipment and generators were installed and watchmen appointed as part of the massive drill.

The DGP various departments took the initiative to form 18,895 communal harmony committees and Grama Rakshana Dals. Some 48 temple-related offences were reported in 2021, which included 13 idol desecrations/idol thefts and 35 ornament thefts.

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