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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

13.5 lakh take shahi snan: ‘It is a matter of faith’

District officials said rapid antigen tests were being done at railway stations on those arriving without RTPCR report. Those testing positive are sent to the Covid facility.

Written by Lalmani Verma | Haridwar |
April 15, 2021 3:34:11 am
Naga sadhus proceed to take a dip in the Ganga during Kumbh Mela on Wednesday. (Reuters)

DESPITE THE steep rise in Covid-19 cases across the country, more than 13.5 lakh devotees turned up at the ghats of Ganga in Haridwar for the third shahi snan during the Kumbh Mela on Wednesday, officials said.

While the authorities said adequate measures, such as mandatory negative RTPCR reports for those coming in, have been in place to ensure safety of the devotees, many of the visitors The Indian Express spoke to said belief was more important than the pandemic. Kumbh happens once in 12 years and they can’t miss it, the devotees said.

“It is a matter of faith which is bigger than anything else. I am a believer in god. How can I miss this opportunity to take bath on this auspicious day,” said Vicky Tyagi, a railway employee posted in Delhi who arrived here on Tuesday with three of his friends. In their 20s, they said they took the Narsan route to enter Uttarakhand from Uttar Pradesh.

They claimed they did not require a Covid negative RTPCR report at the borders although IG Kumbh Sanjay Gunjyal said around 56,000 people and 9,786 vehicles have been turned away from the borders as they were not carrying RTPCR and e-registration proof.

Vicky said his elderly parents had insisted that he take the Kumbh bath as he got his job only a few years ago. His friend Mohit Chauhan, a laboratory technician in Rohtak, said: “Where is corona? Only government has made this hype and put these restrictions. I am not scared of corona.”

While Vicky has taken one shot of the Covid vaccine, arranged by his office, Mohit is yet to take the jab.

Nitish Kumar from Lakhisarai in Bihar said his 65-year-old parents, Nageshwar Singh and Meena Devi, insisted on this trip. “I had suggested to them to avoid coming here in view of the pandemic because they are vulnerable in this age. But they insisted as they believe that they will go to heaven only if they take a dip in Ganga during Kumbh,” said the 29-year-old while waiting at Subhash Ghat with his parents to enter the Har ki Pauri area.

“They [parents] are not sure whether they will survive till next Kumbh. Also, I had reserved the train tickets two months ago and canceling them would have meant losing money,” said Kumar. “But I ensured that they wore masks in train.”

District officials said rapid antigen tests were being done at railway stations on those arriving without RTPCR report. Those testing positive are sent to the Covid facility.

Ramesh Sharma, a 67-year-old retired engineer, reached here Wednesday morning from Jaipur. After finding access blocked at Har ki Pauri – because of the akharas – he took his dip at a ghat with relatively thinner crowd.

Sharma said he has taken both vaccine shots but was still not taking chances – using hand sanitiser every 20 minutes, wearing mask properly as well as wearing gloves in crowded areas. “The way corona is spreading in the second wave, it is worrisome,” he said.

“I have taken the dip in Kumbhs of Prayag [Allahabad], Ujjain and Nashik. Only Hardiwar was left which I completed today. Amarnath Yatra is my next target,” Sharma said.

IGP Gunjyal said although this year the footfall at the shahi snan was 13.51 lakh, it’s way behind the 1.6 crore registered in the 2010 Kumbh, largely because of the pandemic.

On the number of Covid positive cases found in the Kumbh Mela area, Mela Adhikari Deepak Rawat said more than one lakh tests were carried out in the past three days, from which around a 1,000 positive cases were detected.

On Wednesday, Uttarakhand recorded 1,953 cases and 13 deaths across the state, a health department bulletin said.

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