Updated: March 7, 2021 9:17:33 am
Kumbh Mela 2021, to be celebrated “officially’ on the ghats of Ganga in Hardwar next month, comes with an unprecedented challenge for the authorities — that of striking a balance between “aastha” (religious faith) and Covid-19 protocols.
Based on the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) issued by the Centre, the state government has released a detailed SOP for pilgrims, hostels, restaurants, ashrams, ghats, parking areas, railway and bus stations.
An official said they are hopeful that these guidelines are likely to discourage people from visiting this year’s Kumbh Mela.
Halting points will be set up to control crowd at ghats and inside mela area that is spread over 156-sq km in three districts of Haridwar, Dehradun and Pauri Garhwal.
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Mandatory conditions to visit Kumbh Mela in Hardwar
As per the SOP, only those devotees who have a negative RT-PCR test report (done 72 hours prior to the date of visit) will be allowed to enter the Kumbh Mela area. They will have to produce negative RT-PCR reports at entry points and checkposts established at the district border.
Prior to their travel, all devotees will have to mandatorily register on the Kumbh Mela web portal. Only after validation of uploaded documents that they will be issued an e-pass to enter the mela area. The e-pass and the RT-PCR negative test report can be randomly verified at the border checkpost/railway station/airport, in hotel/dharmashala or while boarding trains, buses and in commercial vehicles.
Devotees coming from other states will have to obtain a compulsory medical fitness certificate from the nearest community health centre/district hospital/medical college in origin state, which shall be uploaded in the registration portal and checked at the border check post/railway station/airport/hotel/dharmashala and while boarding train and bus.
The SOP says devotees without e-pass and medical certificate will be denied entry in the mela area.
Devotees will be allowed to exit railway stations only after producing RTPCR negative report and registration.
“We are expecting that a lot of people may avoid hassles of getting RTPCR test and obtaining fitness certificate. Also, apprehension of denial of entry in mela area, if they develop Covid-19 symptoms upon arrival, may force people, especially elderly, to quit plans,” said an official.
For high-risk groups
For the high-risk group population, guidelines specify that the vulnerable population — age more than 65 years, pregnant women, children below the age of 10 years; those with underlying comorbid conditions — are discouraged to attend the kumbh mela. Even if these vulnerable groups turn up with negative RTPCR report, ashrams and dharmshala management will discourage them from moving out and taking baths at ghats.
At the Kumbh Mela, use of face cover/masks will be mandatory. There will be arrangements for mask dispensing kiosks at entry points and parking lots and masks will also be distributed free of cost.
Levying fines/penalties on defaulters for not wearing mask/face cover or for not following social safety and distancing norms should be done by the enforcement agencies.
Any persons/officers involved in the Haridwar Kumbh Mela 2021 found violating these SOPs will be liable to be proceeded against as per the provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 besides legal action under section 188 of IPC and other legal provisions as applicable.
Ashram and dharmashala have been asked to allow entry to devotees only after checking e-pass, RT-PCR report and checked-mark on the wrist. If there will be any symptom of Covid-19 in any visitor, that person will be isolated and covid control room has to be informed. Similar guidelines stand for restaurants and guest houses.
In addition, publicity material for awareness for protection from covid infection and the guidelines will be displayed in every room. There are over 800 hotels and 350 ashrams in Haridwar.
Organising group bhajans, recitations and bhandare (community kitchen) will remain prohibited in the entire mela area.
At ghats, devotees will be allowed to take bath for maximum 20 minutes only. Vulnerable age groups and pregnant women will be discouraged from entering ghat and taking a dip.
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