Uttarakhand high court pulls up government for allowing Char Dham Yatra

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The Uttarakhand high court has pulled up the state government for allowing Char Dham Yatra from July 1 despite fears of a third Covid-19 wave. It directed a review of the decision. The court said the Yatra needs to be postponed or cancelled while citing the cancellation of Amarnath Yatra in Jammu & Kashmir.

“Considering the fact that large gathering invariably leads to a spike in the COVID-19 pandemic, this Court is of the firm opinion that a catastrophe like COVID-19 pandemic should not be re-invited by holding and permitting large gathering at religious shrines, and by permitting the Char Dham Yatra by the State government. Therefore, this court directs the State government to review its decision to commence the Char Dham Yatra on July 1,” the court said.

The court issued the directions while hearing a bunch of pleas related to the Covid-19 pandemic on Wednesday. The order was made available on Thursday.

On June 20, the state government announced the start of the Char Dham Yatra in two phases. From July 1, it will be allowed for the residents of Uttarakhand’s Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Uttarkashi. The pilgrimage to four temples will be allowed from July 11 for people from the rest of the state. On April 29, the state government postponed the pilgrimage, which was scheduled to start on May 14.

The court cited the Kumbh Mela held in April and said a large congregation of tens of thousands of people for the event was “clear cut proof of the failure of the civil administration” in ensuring precautionary measures “…the possibility of a large congregation descending on the temples and shrines of Char Dham cannot be ruled out…Once the devotees start gathering in large number, invariably the first victim is the SOP (standard operating procedure) itself; the second victims are the people at large.”

The court cited media reports and said 59% of deaths due to Covid-19 in Uttarakhand were reported in May. “Thus, there is a clear co-relation between the holding of Kumbh Mela in April 2021 and the consequent deaths which occurred in Uttarakhand in May 2021. Furthermore, it is common knowledge that in April and in May 2021, the entire country was devastated by the second wave of COVID-19.”

The court cited the government’s affidavit and added there are hardly any medical facilities available at the Char Dham shrines.

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