The Uttarakhand government on Tuesday cancelled the 2021 Kanwar Yatra amid fears of a possible third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, ANI reported.
The pilgrimage is undertaken by devotees of Hindu deity Shiva. They collect water, usually from the river Ganga, and offer it at Shiva temples in their respective states. These devotees, called Kanwariyas, cover hundreds of kilometres on foot.
Officials told News18 that Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami held a meeting, where it was decided to stick to the previous Tirath Singh Yadav-led government’s decision not to allow the pilgrimage this year.
The Uttarakhand government’s decision came amid warnings of an imminent third wave of the pandemic. But despite these warnings, tourists continue to throng hill stations, often blatantly violating Covid-19 protocol.
However, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand’s neighbouring state, will allow the annual Kanwar Yatra from July 25.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has said that only a few devotees should be allowed to participate in the pilgrimage, a spokesperson for the state government told PTI on Tuesday. The official added that the government might make negative RT-PCR tests reports mandatory for participation in the pilgrimage.
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Earlier on Tuesday, the health ministry said that Indians were taking warnings about the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic casually and treating them like weather updates. At his meeting with the chief ministers of northeastern states, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also expressed concern about the violation of safety norms in the country.
On Monday, the Indian Medical Association had told central and state governments that “tourist bonanza, pilgrimage travel, religious fervour” could wait and people should follow Covid protocols for at least three more months.
India registered 32,906 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, pushing the infection tally to 3,09,07,282, since the pandemic broke out in January last year. As many as 2,020 deaths pushed India’s toll to 4,10,784. The sudden jump in the toll was because Madhya Pradesh added 1,478 backlog deaths from the second wave of the pandemic till June 30 to its existing record.