‘Devotees’ faith will overcome fear of Covid-19 in Mahakumbh’: CM Rawat
Assuring devotees of removing all “unnecessary” restrictions for Haridwar Mahakumbh, Uttarakhand chief minister Tirath Singh Rawat said on Saturday that the “faith of devotees will overcome the fear of Covid-19” in the mega event that will begin from April 1. The chief minister’s statement drew much flak from experts and the Opposition who cited the recent surge in Covid-19 infections.
“I invite all devotees across the world to come to Haridwar and take a holy dip in the Ganga during Mahakumbh. Nobody will be stopped in the name of Covid-19 as we are sure the faith in God will overcome the fear of the virus,” Rawat said.
During his visit to Haridwar, the chief minister inspected the ongoing works for Mahakumbh and inaugurated many completed projects worth ₹120 crore.
“Prior to my taking charge (as CM), there were clouds of uncertainty hovering over Mahakumbh. But now they have been cleared. The government is fully focused on organising the Mahakumbh in a grand way,” Rawat told the media after performing rituals at the sanctum sanctorum of Brahmakund in Har-Ki-Pauri Ganga ghat along with BJP state president Madan Kaushik and state assembly speaker Premchand Agarwal.
“We have to take a risk as Mahakumbh is not a normal annual fair but one which is held after every 12 years. Every devotee wants to take the sacred Ganga dip and take back Gangajal home. So how can we stop or restrict them from coming here? But the Covid-19 guidelines of the Centre will be adhered to,” he said.
The chief minister said, “Religious sentiments need to be given priority as faith is stronger than fear as was seen during the Shahi Snaan on Mahashivaratri on March 11. About 3.4 million people arrived in Haridwar for that holy bath.”
During his visit to Haridwar, Rawat met seers of Bairagi Akhada in the mela area and sought their blessings.
Union education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, who was present with Rawat, said, “In times of the pandemic, Mahakumbh would be the biggest public congregation in the world while following the Covid-19 guidelines.”
After taking charge as the CM, Rawat had overturned several decisions taken by previous CM Trivendra Singh Rawat, including mandatory RT-PCR negative test report by the devotees coming to Haridwar and no plying of extra buses or running of special trains to Haridwar during Shahi Snaans to limit the crowd amid the pandemic.
The new CM had lifted the restrictions, saying, “The mega event is no ordinary one and devotees will be welcomed without any unnecessary restrictions in the name of Covid-19.”
Experts and the Opposition criticised the CM for his move to remove restrictions amid a spike in Covid-19 cases in many states that has raised fears of a second wave.
“With the Covid-19 cases again increasing in the country, the government’s approach should be “health first” but that doesn’t seem to be the case, which is worrisome,” said PS Chauhan, a Haridwar-based senior academic who has been keeping an eye on the Mahakumbh event. “The easing of restrictions would be very dangerous for the health safety of our state,” he said.
Congress state vice-president Suryakant Dhasmana said, “The CM is saying that all are welcome to the Mahakumbh and nobody will stop them with restrictions. We are not against the devotees coming but is the government prepared to handle a congregation of millions of people in one city? The answer is no. And this is a huge risk for the state.”
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The Shiromani Akali Dal on Sunday asked Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann not to befool the farmers with announcements that their moong crop would be procured when the Centre has only agreed to buy 4,585 tonnes of the pulse, amounting to only 10-15% of the anticipated production. In a statement here, SAD kisan wing president Sikander Singh Maluka said Punjab was set to produce 4.75 lakh tonnes of moong.
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