HARIDWAR: The Kumbh Mela formally began in Haridwar on Thursday with several restrictions imposed on devotees coming to attend the event amid rising cases of Covid-19 in various states including Uttarakhand.
Officials associated with organising the event, including Mela Officer Deepak Rawat, Mela IG Sanjay Gunjyal and Haridwar SSP Janmejay Khanduri, worshipped in temples along the banks of the Ganga to pray for a safe and unhindered Kumbh fair.
Checking on Uttarakhand's borders with Uttar Pradesh at Narsan in Roorkee and Kashipur in Udham Singh Nagar district has been intensified to ensure that only people with a negative RT-PCR test report proceed for the Kumbh Mela.
"Besides registering on our portal, it is compulsory for devotees to bring a negative RT-PCR test report with them," Mela Officer Deepak Rawat said.
A negative RT-PCR test report not older than 72 hours before arrival has been made mandatory for devotees gathering for the Kumbh by the Uttarakhand High Court.
In an order on Wednesday, the high court said a negative RT-PCR certification will be compulsory even in the case of devotees who have received the first dose of the corona vaccine.
Devotees who have taken the anti-Covid vaccination will have to show their certificates and follow the anti-Covid guidelines like wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and frequently undertaking hand sanitization in the Kumbh Kshetra.
The high court has also asked the health authorities in Haridwar to ramp up testing from 5,000 per day to 50,000.
Uttarakhand reported 293 positive Covid-19 cases on Wednesday with Dehradun and Haridwar districts accounting for a majority of them.
Dehradun reported 171 cases followed by Haridwar which reported 70, the Covid Control room in Dehradun said.
It is for the first time in the history of the grand religious congregation held on the banks of the Ganga in Haridwar once in 12 years that its duration has been curtailed to just one month due to the pandemic.
In normal circumstances, Kumbh is held for nearly four months.
Its last edition was held in Haridwar from January 14 to April 28 in 2010.
Between April 1 and 30, there will be three major bathing dates (shahi snan or royal baths) on April 12, 14 and 27.
Besides the shahi snan dates when people descend in droves on the banks of the Ganga in Haridwar for a holy bath, a heavy turnout of devotees is also expected on the occasion of Chaitra Pratipada on April 13 and Ram Navami on April 21.
The notified Kumbh Kshetra (Kumbh area) covers various places in Haridwar, Dehradun and Tehri districts.
A total of 12,000 police and 400 paramilitary force personnel will keep an eye on the Kumbh Kshetra spread over an area of 670 hectares from Haridwar to Devprayag to maintain law and order and ensure that the anti-Covid protocol is followed strictly.
A total of 38 temporary hospitals with the deployment of 200 doctors and 1,500 paramedical staff have also been operationalised for devotees in the Mela area.
The Mela Kshetra includes Neergarh, Tapovan, Bitthal Ashram Marg to Muni-Ki-Reti road and Rishikesh-Haridwar bypass in the north.
It includes Narendra Nagar-Rishikesh bypass, the forest check post on Rishikesh-Dehradun road, Rishikesh-Haridwar bypass, Mansa Devi, Billkeshwar Mandir, Tibri Mohand, BHEL residential buildings, Roorkee-Bahadarabad road and up to 13 km on Haridwar-Delhi road in the west.
In the south, the Kumbh area extends from Bahadarabad-Haridwar bypass to Siddha Sot Setu and from Siddha Sot Setu to Neelkanth Mahadev temple in the east.