The Uttarakhand Government has decided that the annual Chardham yatra pilgrimage that takes place at Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri and Gangotri will begin on May 14. The Uttarakhand government seems to be on an overdrive to conduct mass religious gatherings right after the Kumbh Mela after which the number of Covid-19 infections has gone up in the state, devotees have died of the disease, and many more who are asymptomatic may have travelled to the home state putting others at risk.
According to CNN-News18 report, the government has said that the annual pilgrimage will begin, and that it will set up fresh SOPs. The government has said the yatra is a matter of faith, and strict protocols will be followed. Over 600 police personnel of the state have tested positive for Covid-19, reported CNN-News18. Last year, the temple portals were opened but the yatra did not really take place as usual as the national lockdown of 2020 was in place.
And after the Shahi Snan concluded on April 27 2021, Haridwar’s district administration announced a ‘corona curfew’ from April 28 to the morning of May 3. If the Covid-19 surge in the state continues, it is likely that this curfew or lockdown may be extended. That then may change the way the char dham yatra is conducted. However the state government has not made an attempt to cancel the yatra.
For now the SOPs include mandatory negative RT-PCR test reports of pilgrims, no entry into the sanctum sanctorum of the temples, etc. According to news reports Uttarakhand’s Tourism Minister Satpal Maharaj said, “We have made negative RT-PCR reports mandatory for Char Dham Yatra to ensure that the infection does not spread. The Yatra is a matter of faith and we are committed to provide every facility to the pilgrims from all over the world.” According to news reports the Uttarakhand government may also likely limit the number of pilgrims in a particular shrine on a day. Last year, there were 800 pilgrims for Kedarnath shrine, 1,200 for Badrinath, 600 for Gangotri and 400 for Yamunotri.
Uttrakhand Govt. has said that the annual pilgrimage (Chardham yatra) to Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri & Gangotri will begin on May 14.@AnupamTrivedi26 shares more details with @shreyadhoundial pic.twitter.com/kJatyaHN9z
— News18 (@CNNnews18) April 28, 2021
The Uttarakhand High Court had recently sought a detailed report from the state government on its preparedness for the rising cases of Covid-19 in the state. The Chief Secretary, Om Prakash had informed the court of the steps being taken to curb the spread of Covid-19 that the state had already imposed a lockdown on the weekend, imposed night curfew throughout the State, and deferred examinations. The court issued many directions such as the state should increase the number of Dedicated Covid-19 hospitals. For, merely having five Dedicated COVID-19 Hospitals is too little to tackle the menace, especially when the pandemic is likely to spread and increase throughout the state in the coming months.
The Uttarakhand Government was directed to immediately issue a SoP with regard to the opening of Char Dhams. The SoP must indicate the procedure for registration of the pilgrims, the number of pilgrims allowed to travel to the respective Dham, the accommodation which would be available for the pilgrims, the number of pilgrims allowed to enter each temple at the Dham. Moreover, the State Government shall ensure that the SoP issued by the Central Government and the SoP issued by the State Government are strictly complied with by the pilgrims. For, the opening of the Char Dhams cannot be permitted to become another hot bed for the spread of Covid-19 pandemic.
The court directed the Health Secretary to submit a detailed report on the implementation of these directions on or before May 7 and scheduled the next hearing for May 10.
On Tuesday over 25,000 devotees, 1,000 seers participated in the final shahi snan (royal dip) of the Kumbh Mela 2021. The mela is over and most of the visitors will begin leaving for their home states via various modes of transport. It is not yet known if all these visitors to the massively crowded Kumbh Mela would have tested negative for Covid-19 before they leave, or if all other states will ensure they are quarantined and tested as a precaution on arrival.