It was a difficult decision to stop kanwar yatra: Uttarakhand CM Dhami

Updated on Jul 16, 2021 03:11 AM IST

I think people understand where we are coming from. If you believe in God as I do, you know that human life is more precious. God will not approve of this, said the Uttarakhand CM

Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami. (PTI)
Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami. (PTI)
By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The Supreme Court on Wednesday cited Uttarakhand’s move to suspend the kanwar yatra and said it was a “little disturbed” by Uttar Pradesh’s decision to allow the pilgrimage despite widespread fears of a third wave of Covid-19. Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, 45, spoke to Sunetra Choudhury about the yatra for which around 30 million pilgrims walk to fetch the Ganga waters for temples back home. Edited excerpts:

Was it a difficult decision to stop the yatra?

The yatra is a matter of great faith and devotion for us. Crores of Kanwariyas come to carry water from the Ganga (in Haridwar). For us, it is a very difficult decision. The pilgrims come to Uttarakhand from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan... Haridwar is the centre of the yatra. For us, people’s lives and saving them is of primary concern. For that, we have taken a tough decision with God as our witness. We are sure that God will not be pleased if because of our laxity, lives are lost. That is why we have stopped (the yatra).

Did you consult experts?

The new variant of the Coronavirus has been found in Gadarpur of Uddham Singh Nagar district in our state. We kept that in mind and sought advice from all kinds of people. Our officers consulted their peers in Uttar Pradesh too and noted how infection rates continue to grow. Keeping all this in mind and since we are the host of the entire yatra, we did not want Uttarakhand to be the Covid hotspot... People know that we would have loved to have the yatra...

Did you speak to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath about it?

I called him and briefed him about the situation here. It is not that he has taken a different line from me. He is a revered figure for me.

Adityanath faces polls next year and so do you. What impact will this have on the polls?

I think people understand where we are coming from. If you believe in God as I do, you know that human life is more precious. God will not approve of this. I spoke to all, and we were all agreed. There are many yatras to be experienced in life.

Uttarakhand has had three chief ministers in just a matter of months. Did you know that you would have to take such a tough decision so soon after taking over?

I live in the present and I never thought that I would be chief minister. My party has given me the work, the Prime Minister and others considered me worthy. So, I do not worry about the past or regret it and neither do I fear the future. Whatever challenge I face, I will just fulfil my oath.

How are you handling the tourists’ rush?

People are tired of staying at home for so long. They are now dying to get out. All the things that people missed out on, they want to make up for it. I appeal to all to do it slowly and in a measured manner. One government cannot do it by itself. It has to be a community effort.

Do you have enough vaccines?

We have vaccinated 50% of our population with both doses. Our aim is to vaccinate all in the next four months. We have appealed to the Centre to double our allocation and if that is done, we will have total coverage.

Elections are around the corner. Do not you think the frequent changes will work against the Bhartiya Janata Party?

No. Responsibilities are given and taken. We have done lots of work in the last 4.5 years and I am working to further that

The Kumbh was allowed despite the second Covid-19 wave. Would that have an impact?

They must have decided according to the situation at that time. Those who took fake Covid certificates (to attend Kumbh) are facing investigation. ...such incidents should not happen again. Humans are always learning, and I am doing that.

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    Sunetra Choudhury is the National Political Editor of the Hindustan Times. With over two decades of experience in print and television, she has authored Black Warrant (Roli,2019), Behind Bars: Prison Tales of India’s Most Famous (Roli,2017) and Braking News (Hachette, 2010). Sunetra is the recipient of the Red Ink award in journalism in 2016 and Mary Morgan Hewett award in 2018.

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