DEHRADUN: The Uttarakhand government has initiated efforts to bring the rawals (chief priests) of Kedarnath and Badrinath stuck outside the state due to the lockdown to preside over the opening of the Himalayan temples.
However, it has also asked authorities concerned to nominate other priests as their replacements in case they are not in a position to be present on the occasion.
The rawal of Kedarnath is in Maharashtra and that of Badrinath in Kerala.
The state government has decided to open the famed temples and the rawals are supposed to be at the opening on April 29 and April 30 respectively.
Uttarakhand Chief Secretary Utpal Kumar Singh has written to the Ministry of Home Affairs to obtain its permission for bringing them to the state by road, state government spokesman and cabinet minister Madan Kaushik told reporters.
However, even if the MHA gives its consent to bring them, they will have to be quarantined after their arrival as per the COVID-19 protocol which may prevent them from being present when the portals of the Himalayan shrines are thrown open for devotees, Kaushik said.
Hence, the erstwhile Tehri royal family has been authorised to either push the date for opening Badrinath temple or nominate some other priest in place of the rawal to perform the puja that precedes the opening of the shrine, he said, adding it has been done three or four times in the past also amid unusual circumstances.
Similarly, the Badrinath-Kedarnath Temple Committee has also been asked to nominate another priest as a temporary replacement for the Kedarnath Rawal if he is not in a position to make it to the temple on schedule.
The state government took several important decisions at a meeting of ministers and officials chaired by Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat late on Thursday night in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Centre after the extension of the lockdown till May 3.
The decisions include opening of the four Himalayan temples in accordance with religious traditions and beliefs, partial resumption of industrial activities as per the Centre's guidelines, allowing marriages to take place in the presence of only five people and funerals in the presence of not more than 20 persons in compliance with norms of social distancing, Kaushik said.
However, all this can be done only with the permission of the district magistrate, he said.
Industries that apply for seeking resumption of their activities by Apr 20 can be permitted to do so if they fulfil the guidelines issued for them in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The meeting decided that migrant workers and tourists stuck in Uttarakhand will remain where they are at present till the extended lockdown ends.
There will be no shortage of food and other essentials for them during the lockdown, Kaushik said.
The corona hotspots will remain sealed and there will be no relaxation in the curbs in districts which have not reported a single COVID-19 case so far, he said.
Jamaatis who do not come out of hiding despite repeated warnings and those giving shelter to them will be severely punished, he said.
A total of 1423 Jamaatis who have travelled to the state from outside have been identified and a large number of them have been quarantined.
"As many as 182 Jamaatis have shown up after warnings but I would like to reiterate that Jamaatis who are still in hiding as well as those sheltering them face stern penal action for endangering their own lives and those of others," he said.