On allowing Kanwar Yatra, Supreme Court issues notice to Centre, UP govt

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday took suo moto cognizance of the decision of Uttar Pradesh government to allow Kanwar Yatra amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. It has issued notices to both the central government as well as the Uttar Pradesh government, and scheduled the hearing of the matter for July 16.

The development comes amid the UP government’s decision to go ahead with the Kanwar Yatra, even when Uttarakhand has scrapped the annual pilgrimage this year. Senior officials of the UP administration indicated that they could make a negative Covid-19 test report mandatory.

“It’s status quo in UP. We are talking to kanwar sanghs and everything will be done within the Covid-19 protocol. Even if devotees come from other states to UP, they will have to follow those protocols,” additional chief secretary (home), Awanish Kumar Awasthi said on Tuesday.

Kanwar Yatra is an annual pilgirmmage wherein Lord Shiva devotees travel either on foot or bicycle to fetch the holy water of the Ganga from Uttarakhand’s Haridwar to their village shrines. This year the yatra is scheduled to start from July 25 onwards.

Meanwhile, the Uttarakhand government cancelled the Kanwar Yatra this year in view of the Covid-19 crisis, with chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami saying that people’s lives are their “first priority”. “We don’t want to make Haridwar the centre of Covid-19,” he added. The decision came after Dhami chaired a meeting on Tuesday evening.

The Indian Medical Association’s (IMA) state secretary Dr Amit Khanna, in a letter to Dhami, requested the newly-appointed chief minister to refrain from holding the Kanwar Yatra. “After the first wave, we became off-guard and could not follow the guidelines of the central government…which was a gross negligence on our part…and consequently lost several of our kind in…the second wave of Covid pandemic,” he stated, as reported by Livemint.

Khanna further pointed out that keeping in mind the previous failures, the Kanwar Yatra should not be allowed to keep Uttarakhand “safe from third Covid wave”.

On July 6, Uttarakhand had decided to stop all Kanwar Yatra devotees from entering the state, but took the decision to review the move two days later after UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath called Dhami. Notably, both the states go into Assembly polls next year.

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