U’khand Says No, UP Says Yes: With Neighbours Differing in Views, How Will Kanwar Yatra be Held Amid Covid

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Amid threat of third wave of Covid-19, the Uttarakhand government has cancelled the Kanwar Yatra this year while Uttar Pradesh has decided to resume the annual ritual with Covid restrictions in place.

The Uttarakhand government decision was taken after a high-level meeting between Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami and top officials of the state government. The Indian Medical Association yesterday had requested CM Pushkar Singh Dhami to cancel the Kanwar Yatra in view of Covid-19.

“We are not interested in turning Haridwar into a Covid-19 hotspot. We do not want to put people’s lives at risk. Keeping this in mind we have decided to cancel the Kanwar Yatra. We have to save lives. God wouldn’t want lives to be lost,” said Dhami after the meeting.

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Meanwhile UP has decided to continue with the Yatra, which sees a heavy movement of devotees, with Covid protocols. The state government has announced a range of provisions including limiting the number of devotees and it is mulling to enforce mandatory RT-PCR test.

Heavy Security in Uttarakhand

CM Dhami has directed that officials of neighbouring states should also be requested to coordinate and take effective action so that they can be successful in stopping the pandemic.

In order to ensure the ban on pilgrimage, heavy security forces will be deployed at Uttarakhand border to stop the Kanwar Yatra. Holy Ganga water will be transported through tanker to other states as per their demands.

The Kanwar Yatra doesn’t necessarily requires a devotee to go to Haridwar or Gomukh. The Gangajal can be fetched from other locations. It is being considered that a big chunk of devotees especially in central UP and East UP will move towards Prayagraj or Varanasi.

UP Takes a string of measures

Uttar Pradesh government has announced that only Kanwar pilgrims will be allowed to attend the ritual. It has also requested the Kanwar associations to limit the number of pilgrims for the ritual.

UP CM Yogi Adityanath has asked officers to prepare a detailed guideline for Covid protocols during the Kanwar Yatra. The issue is also likely to be discussed in a meeting with the Chief Minister.

Provisions like making RT-PCR test mandatory likely to be put in place. The state government will put a special focus on Western UP and also to make strategy to avoid building up at Uttarakhand borders.

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The Uttar Pradesh government has taken cautionary measures to enforce Covid-19 protocols during the yatra. UP Additional Director General (ADG) Law and Order, Prashant Kumar, reportedly said that this year, the Kanwar yatra will be held from July 25 to August 6.

According to officials, last time in 2019, nearly 3.5 crore devotees had visited Haridwar during the Yatra while over 2-3 crore people had visited pilgrimage spots in Western UP.

Odisha Govt Bans Bol Bam Yatra

Meanwhile, the Odisha government yesterday also announced a ban on the religious activities and congregations of ‘Kaudias’ and ‘Bol Bom’ devotees. According to an order issued by the Chief Secretary, the ‘Bol Bom’ devotees are not allowed to collect water from rivers, ponds, and other water bodies and walk on any public road to offer it to the deity at any Shiva temple during the Odia month of Shravan (July/August).

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