TWO MONTHS after it hosted over 36 lakh people for the Kumbh Mela, just before the second Covid wave, the BJP government in Uttarakhand has cancelled the annual Kanwar Yatra in the state citing the pandemic.
On Tuesday, the state’s police authorities appealed to officers of neighbouring states to ask devotees not to come to Haridwar this month for the annual pilgrimage to collect water from the Ganga. The Yatra was not held last year due to Covid restrictions.
The appeal for this year was issued during an inter-state coordination meeting, which was chaired by DGP Ashok Kumar, with police officers of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Delhi, on the yatra.
The DGP said that those found entering Haridwar for the yatra would be booked under the Disaster Management Act and the Epidemic Diseases Act, and placed under quarantine according to Covid guidelines.
During the meeting, Uttarakhand police suggested that devotees can coordinate at the police station-level and send tankers to collect water from the Ganga.
The police move followed an order issued recently by the state’s Urban Development Department prohibiting the Kanwar Yatra this year in view of Covid.
In 2019, nearly 3.5 crore devotees — known as kanwariyas — visited Haridwar for the yatra, up from 2.8 crore in 2018. Officials said most of them were from western UP and Haryana, followed by many others from Delhi and Rajasthan.
Last week, the state government had suspended the Char Dham Yatra until further notice, after the Uttarakhand High Court stayed for four weeks the decision to allow the pilgrimage for local residents of three districts from July 1.
On April 1, when the Kumbh formally got going, there were 626 active cases in Haridwar. On April 30, when the mela concluded, there were 11,075 active cases in the district. At least 17,226 new cases and 90 deaths were reported in the district between April 1 and April 30, according to data from the Health department.
Since then, Uttarakhand has witnessed political turbulence, too, with Tirath Singh Rawat replacing Trivendra Singh Rawat as Chief Minister before being himself replaced last week by Pushkar Singh Dhami.