Updated: September 17, 2021 5:35:31 am
UTTARAKHAND HIGH Court on Thursday vacated its stay order on the state Cabinet’s decision to allow Char Dham Yatra but directed the state government to ensure adequate availability of Covid testing and medical facilities during the yatra.
Hours later, the state government announced that the yatra will begin on September 18. “Uttarakhand government welcomes the devotees and pilgrims in Char Dham and Hemkund Sahib ji yatra starting in Devbhoomi Uttarakhand from September 18,” tweeted Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami.
The stay order was vacated by a bench of Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice Alok Kumar Verma while hearing an application moved by the state government.
The government had earlier filed a special leave petition (SLP) in Supreme Court challenging the High Court’s June 28 stay order on the decision to allow the yatra for local population of the three districts concerned from July 1. Earlier this month, the government withdrew the SLP and filed an interim application in the High Court for recalling the stay order.
Vacating its stay order on Thursday, the High Court cautioned about the rate of vaccination among the local population in the three districts concerned. Badrinath shrine is in Chamoli district, Kedarnath in Rudraprayag while Gangotri and Yamunotri are located in Uttarkashi.
“It is, indeed, disconcerting that the people in the age group of 18-44 years, the majority of them have yet to be inoculated with the second doze. For, according to the data available, in district Chamoli the percentage of population [those with both doses] is as low as 16.9%, in district Rudraprayag it is 22.6%, and in district Uttarkashi it is 19.3%,” the court said in its order. “Therefore, the second dozes have to be increased in these three districts in order to ensure that the local population is completely fortified against the Coronavirus.”
“Considering the fact that if pilgrims from outside the state are permitted to mingle with the local population, obviously, it is the local population that would have to face the danger of contracting the disease. Thus, it is imperative that the vaccination for the second doze be increased phenomenally in these three districts by the state,” it said.
The court also directed the state government to enhance the medical facilities, if necessary, and to ensure that at least beds with ventilators are available.
According to the court order, the government in its “Covid-19 mitigation measures for Char Dham Yatra”, has committed itself to availability of helicopters. The court directed the government to ensure that in the registration online portal, the helpline number for the helicopter is provided.
“Moreover, at the Char Dham locations, sufficient information should be given to the pilgrims coming in about the availability of the medical facilities, the numbers of beds available, and the fact that the helicopter would be available if the urgency so arises,” the court ordered.
In its SOP, the government had proposed to permit 1,200 pilgrims to visit the Badrinath temple, 800 pilgrims to Kedarnath temple, 600 pilgrims to Gangotri, and 400 pilgrims to Yamunotri on a daily basis. The court in its Thursday order said it was “essential to reduce the number of pilgrims visiting Badrinath temple from 1,200 to 1,000 per day” while the rest can remain the same.
The court also directed state police to ensure that strict penal action is taken against those persons who violate either the SOP or provisions of the Disaster Management Act, or provisions of the Uttarakhand Anti-Littering and Anti-Spitting Act, 2016.
After the court order, Chief Secretary S S Sandhu held a meeting to review arrangements for the yatra and testing of the pilgrims.
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