Char Dham limited to locals after HC rap
The decision was taken by the state government during a cabinet meeting chaired by chief minister Tirath Singh Rawat on Friday.
The Uttarakhand government has for now decided to open the Char Dham yatra only for the locals of the three districts where the shrines are located, hours after the high court reprimanded it for allowing the pilgrimage amid concerns that a third Covid wave is round the corner.
The decision was taken by the state government during a cabinet meeting chaired by chief minister Tirath Singh Rawat on Friday. “From July 1, locals from three districts where the Char Dham shrines are located, would be allowed to visit them. They would have to carry either RT-PCR report... there would a daily limit on the number of pilgrims to be allowed to visit the shrines. That would be decided in an SOP to be issued soon...,” said state government spokesperson Subodh Uniyal.
“A special official would also be appointed for each of the four shrines in coordination with the respective district administrations and Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board to monitor the pilgrimage.” He added that all the priests of four shrines would be vaccinated.
Earlier in the day, a bench of chief justice RS Chauhan and justice Alok Verma nudged the state to instead opt for live streaming of the ceremonies at the Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri and Gangotri shrines.
“Perhaps the Char Dham Yatra needs to be postponed or cancelled, as already the Amarnath Yatra has been cancelled by the Jammu & Kashmir administration,” it said.
“Considering the fact that large gathering invariably leads to a spike in the Covid-19 pandemic, this court is of the firm opinion that a catastrophe like Covid-19 pandemic should not be re-invited by holding and permitting large gathering at religious shrines, and by permitting the Char Dham yatra by the state,” the high court said.
The Char Dham yatra, scheduled to start on May 14, was deferred on April 29 in view of the spike in Covid cases. On June 20, the state said the yatra would begin from July 1 for local residents, and pilgrims from other parts of the state from July 11.
“Already holding of Kumbh Mela, and in permitting a large congregation of lakhs of people on Ganga Dussehra at Har-ki-Pauri at Haridwar are clear-cut proof of the failure of the civil administration... Once the devotees start gathering in large numbers, invariably the first victim is the SOP itself; the second victims are the people at large”, said the judges.