The organisers of the Kanwar Yatra on Saturday called off the annual pilgrimage in Uttar Pradesh in view of the Covid-19 situation, PTI reported.
Authorities announced the decision after a meeting between the state’s additional chief secretaries Avnish Awasthi and Navneet Sehgal, state police chief Mukul Goyal and the representatives of the Kanwar Sangh, according to India Today.
“The Kanwar Yatra has been cancelled by the Kanwar Sanghs on the appeal of the Uttar Pradesh government,” Navneet Sehgal, additional chief secretary (information), said.
During the Kanwar Yatra, devotees of the Hindu deity Shiva collect water from the Ganga river in Haridwar in Uttarakhand and offer it at temples in their respective states. These devotees, called Kanwariyas, cover hundreds of kilometres on foot.
The Uttar Pradesh government had allowed the yatra to begin from July 25 despite warnings about the imminent third wave of Covid-19.
But on Friday, the Supreme Court asked the state government to reconsider its decision to allow the pilgrimage in the present circumstances.
Senior Advocate CS Vaidyanathan, representing Uttar Pradesh, told the court that a total ban on the pilgrimage was not practical. “We have allowed the yatra in a symbolic manner, with limited number of devotees under stringent conditions,” he added.
Justice RF Nariman noted that the health of citizens and their right to life was paramount. “All other sentiments whether be religious is subservient to this basic fundamental right,” the judge added.
The Uttarakhand government had also cancelled the Kanwar Yatra on July 13.
Experts have issued repeated warnings about a surge in coronavirus cases in India. On July 12, the Indian Medical Association had said that “tourist bonanza, pilgrimage travel, religious fervour” could wait and the people should follow Covid protocols for at least three more months.
Crowding at hill stations has also become a cause of concern. Last week, the health ministry said Indians were taking Covid warnings too casually and treating them like weather updates. Health ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said at a press briefing that people must incorporate Covid-appropriate behaviour into their lives as the new normal.