Uttarakhand has cancelled this year's Kanwar Yatra due to the Covid pandemic. The decision by Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami's government came amid concerns raised over the risk posed by such events in triggering a possible third wave of the pandemic.
"We, over the past many days, have discussed this a lot, spoke to authorities, and also officials in neighbouring states. The conclusion was that, in these times, we don't want to turn Haridwar into a centre of the pandemic," Chief Minister Dhami told the media today.
"People's lives are our primary concern. We can't play around with that...Even the gods will not want people to die," he said announcing the decision to cancel the Yatra.
The Yatra had been cancelled last year, too, amid the first wave.
Earlier today, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath urged that only a minimum number of people should participate in the annual event, directing strict implementation of the COVID-19 protocol.
Every year, an estimated 30 million Kanwariyas (devotees of Lord Shiva) from various northern states travel on foot or by other means to collect water from River Ganga at Haridwar to offer at Shiva temples in their areas.
The fortnight-long yatra, which begins with the onset of the month of Shravan, around July 25, and goes on till the first week of August, sees Kanwariyas from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Delhi, and Himachal Pradesh gathering in Haridwar.
The Indian Medical Association's Uttarakhand chapter had yesterday written to Chief Minister Dhami requesting him to cancel the Yatra.
Reminding the Chief Minister how people went off guard after the first wave and paid a heavy price for it in the form of a stronger and more fatal second wave, the IMA asked him to take all things into consideration.