Covid surge: Uttarakhand govt may still hold Char Dham Yatra - Hindustan Times
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Covid surge: Uttarakhand govt may still hold Char Dham Yatra

By, Dehradun
Apr 29, 2021 05:55 AM IST

The number of active Covid-19 cases in the state has increased from 2,236 on April 1, when the Kumbh started to 45,383 on Wednesday. The event also saw the death of four senior seers from Covid.

The Uttarakhand government, widely criticised for its mishandling of the Mahakumbh, resulting in a spike in Covid-19 cases, will hold a meeting on Thursday to decide the fate of the Char Dham yatra scheduled to start from May 14 .

The state government is not in favour of calling off the yatra, although it is worried about the backlash if it goes ahead, especially after its experience with the Mahakumbh.(HT Photo)
The state government is not in favour of calling off the yatra, although it is worried about the backlash if it goes ahead, especially after its experience with the Mahakumbh.(HT Photo)

The meeting, held under the chairmanship of state tourism minister Satpal Maharaj will decide whether the popular pilgrimage, to the four holy towns of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Tamunotri, will be restricted to local pilgrims, held in a symbolic way, or be open to a limited number of pilgrims from around the country.

HT learns that the state government is not in favour of calling off the yatra, although it is worried about the backlash if it goes ahead, especially after its experience with the Mahakumbh. There is also a possibility that the Union government, which allowed the Kumbh to go ahead, may be more proactive when it comes to calling off the Char Dham yatra, especially given the surging second wave of the coronavirus disease.

The number of active Covid-19 cases in the state has increased from 2,236 on April 1, when the Kumbh started to 45,383 on Wednesday. The event also saw the death of four senior seers from Covid.

The state on Wednesday reported 6054 fresh cases and 108 deaths .

Ravinath Raman, chief executive officer of Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board said all issues related to the Char Dham yatra will be decided in the meeting of the the board chaired by Satpal Maharaj on Thursday.

“Whether the numbers will be limited or yatra will be restricted, made symbolic or what sort of curbs will be put, will be discussed during the meeting.”

The minister himself seems keen to go ahead with the yatra. On Tuesday, Maharaj held a virtual interactive session on ‘Tourism In Uttarakhand, Challenges and the Way Forward’, with hoteliers and travel tour operators. During the interaction, he said RT-PCR reports will be mandatory for pilgrims coming for the Char Dham yatra, that thermal screening of local pilgrims would be done, and that the yatra itself would be organised under strict Covid guidelines. There was no talk of restricting numbers or even calling off the event.

HT also learns that senior officials and residents in the districts where the Char Dham shrines are located are not in favour of the yatra, as they fear it will bring a fresh wave of the viral disease to the hill state, many parts of which are already struggling to cope with the pandemic given inadequate healthcare facilities.

The four towns attract millions of pilgrims each year. Traditionally, Char Dham pilgrimage begins from the west from Yamunotri, then proceeding to Gangotri and finally to Kedarnath and Badrinath in the east.

This year the portals of Yamunotri shrine will be opened on May 14 at 12.15 pm, while the portals of Gangotri shrine will be opened on May 15 on the occasion of Akshay Tritya at around 7.30 am. In February, the date for opening the portals of Badrinath shrine, May 18, was declared on the occasion of Basant Panchami. Last month the date of the opening of the portals of Kedarnath shrine, May 17, was announced.

Last year Char Dham yatra didn’t start on April 26 with the opening of portals of Yamunotri and Gangotri (first two shrines to open after winter months) on account of a nationwide hard lockdown. The Char Dham shrines were eventually opened for local pilgrims on July 1 by the state government and for pilgrims from other states in the last week of July. In September, the Uttarakhand government further removed the mandatory negative Covid-19 report mandatory for all pilgrims.

According to Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board officials, last year, 3.1 lakh pilgrims participated in the Char Dham Yatra. In 2019, over 3.2 million pilgrims visited Char Dham shrines.

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