A stampede may occur if the police try to enforce physical distancing guidelines by the river Ganges in Uttarakhand’s Haridwar during the Kumbh Mela, Inspector General Sanjay Gunjyal told ANI on Monday. His comments came even as India reported a record daily tally of 1,68,912 new coronavirus cases, but hundreds of thousands of devotees gathered for a ritual bath in the river.
The Kumbh Mela, which will be held from April 1 to April 30, is expected to be visited by 10 lakh pilgrims each day. It is likely to climb to 50 lakh on three days of “shahi snaan” or royal bath, on Monday, April 14 and April 27. Thousands of devotees thronged the banks of the Ganges, some of them without masks, in violation of the guidelines.
The Kumbh Mela Police Control Room said that more than 21 lakh people had participated in the “snaan” by noon on Monday.
“We are continuously appealing to people to follow Covid-19 appropriate behaviour,” the police officer told ANI. “But due to the huge crowd, it is practically not possible to issue challans today. It is very difficult to ensure social distancing at ghats.”
“We are observing a gap of half an hour in between the ‘snan’ of two akharas to vacate and clean the ghats,” Uttarakhand Director General of Police (Haridwar) Ashok Kumar said, according to ANI. “The footfall is 50% less than what we were expecting this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The Uttarakhand Police said it will use Artificial Intelligence to detect those who can be seen not wearing masks in CCTV footage, reported The Indian Express. Authorities said more than 350 CCTV cameras were installed, with around 100 of these equipped with sensors that trigger an alert when the image of a person without a mask is captured.
As of Monday morning, Uttarakhand has 7,323 active cases of cornavirus and 1,082 new infections were reported in 24 hours. The toll in the state reached 1,760 after eight more deaths. As many as 99,729 people have recovered from the disease so far.