- The SC had yesterday questioned UP's decision to allow Kanwar Yatra
- BJP's own leaders criticised Yogi Adityanath's handling of the pandemic
- Earlier, bodies of suspected Covid patients were found floating in Ganga
Uttar Pradesh's handling of the second wave of COVID-19 cases was "unparalleled", Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared Thursday morning during a visit to his constituency of Varanasi.
The Prime Minister also said UP - which recorded over 30,000 new cases daily at the peak of the second wave, up from a record single-day high of 7,016 cases in the first - had "stood up and battled the virus efficiently", and that its management of the pandemic was "worthy of praise".
"UP stood up and battled the virus efficiently... is India's most populous state but the manner in which Uttar Pradesh handled and controlled the pandemic is worthy of praise. UP's handling of the second wave of COVID-19 has been unparalleled," the Prime Minister said.
Expressing his admiration for healthcare and frontline workers of the state, the Prime Minister also hailed UP for "the maximum number of vaccinations in the country".
Data from the centre's CoWIN platform says UP had administered 3.89 crore doses so far.
A report by Oxford Economics last month suggested that unlike other (smaller) states, UP has yet to reach a "safe level" - that is, at least 30 per cent of the population has received both doses.
"I am immensely thankful and grateful for all the 'corona warriors' and all those who have come and helped in these trying times. Today, UP has done the maximum vaccinations in the country. A vaccine for all... a free vaccine... is the aim of the government and it is being done," the PM said.
The praise for Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and his administration comes a day after the Supreme Court issued a notice over the decision to allow the Kanwar Yatra, despite warnings from medical experts about large gatherings allowing the coronavirus to spread further and faster.
On Wednesday, top court said Indian citizens were left "perplexed" by the state's decision, particularly as it came after the Prime Minister's call to avoid large gatherings to ward off a third wave of cases.
The praise also comes on the heels of dissent within the BJP's UP ranks over Adityanath's management of the pandemic, with the party's own leaders going public with their complaints.
The biggest among these was Lok Sabha MP Santosh Gangwar, who complained about the situation in UP's Bareilly. Mr Gangwar was removed as Labour Minister in this month's cabinet reshuffle.
The Prime Minister's praise aside, the UP government has faced widespread criticism - from medical experts and opposition leaders - over its handling of the pandemic, including when bodies of suspected Covid patients were found floating on the Ganga, and buried along its banks, in May and June.
The UP government refuted reports that the deaths were linked to the pandemic.
The state has also been questioned over reporting of Covid-linked deaths, with former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav referring to reports of teachers assigned to panchayat poll duties dying of the virus.
A teachers' body claimed that 90 per cent of over 1,600 who had died since the first week of April due to COVID-19 were on poll duties. The state has insisted that only three deaths are linked to the virus.
Uttar Pradesh has reported over 17 lakh COVID-19 cases and 22,704 deaths so far.
Officially, there are only 1,428 active cases.