Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat on Tuesday said that the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar should not be compared to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation at Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi last year, ANI reported. Rawat made the comment even as Haridwar reported 1,002 Covid-19 cases in the last two days.

“They [Markaz attendees] were all inside a building and here it is out in the open,” Rawat told reporters. “And this is near the Ganges. The flow and blessings of Ma Ganga will ensure that coronavirus does not spread. The question does not arise of a comparison.”

On Monday, over 28 lakh devotees had turned up to take a dip in the Ganges in open violation of coronavirus norms. The Mela on Monday witnessed increased footfall as April 12 was one of the three days of “shahi snaan”, or royal bath. However, only 18,169 of the pilgrims were reportedly tested at the Mela between 11.30 pm on Sunday and 5 pm on Monday. On Wednesday, the number of pilgrims attending the event is expected to rise again as another “shahi snaan” will be held.

Meanwhile, in his bid to defend the Kumbh, Rawat said that devotees are dispersed over different ghats (river embankments) and bathe at different times. But he did not elaborate on how that would make a difference in case of a virus that can be borne through air and water.

Also read:

Covid-19: Imagine the headlines if any other religion had been responsible for Kumbh-like gathering

This, however, was not the first occasion that Rawat has tried to downplay the risk of transmission of the virus at the Kumbh Mela. At an interview earlier this week, he had said that the Kumbh was being held at a time when there was more awareness about coronavirus guidelines, compared to when the Nizamuddin Markaz took place, PTI reported.

But Rawat did not speak on the reports about the guidelines being flouted or authorities saying it was difficult to impose restrictions at a huge event like the Kumbh Mela. The Uttarakhand Police had claimed that a stampede may occur if they tried to enforce physical distancing guidelines. On Tuesday, Rawat himself reduced night curfew timing in the state by 30 minutes in view of the festive celebrations during the month of Navratri and Ramzan.

India on Wednesday reported 1,84,372 new Covid-19 infections – the highest single-day rise in cases since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. The overall case count stands at 1,38,73,825.