DEHRADUN: The Uttarakhand government on Tuesday cancelled the Kanwar Yatra in view of a possible third wave of COVID-19.
Cheif Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said, "We have done a lot of exercise on this issue and have also discuss with the officials of the neighboring states too. After all these talks we have finally decided that we are not going to let Haridwar become a center of Covid-19 spread. People's lives are priority for us and we are not going to take it lightly. That is why we have decided to cancel the Kanwar Yatra."
When asked that the Chif Minister of Uttar Pradesh has decided to start the yatra from July 25, Dhami said, "Our government has decided to cancel the yatra. We appeal everyone that because Covid 19 pandemic is still here so saving people's lives is more important. God would also not like it if people die."
It is for the second consecutive year that the yatra is not being held due to the pandemic.
The Indian Medical Association had also written to Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami recently asking him to not allow the yatra to go ahead in the interest of the people of the state and the country.
Earlier in the day, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami had said that though Kanwar Yatra is part of Sanatan culture, saving lives in the time of the pandemic was paramount.
The fortnight-long yatra which begins with the onset of the month of Shravan by the Hindu calendar goes on till the first week of August and sees a large gathering of Kanwariyas in Haridwar from neighbouring states including Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi to collect the holy waters of the Ganga.
Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami on Tuesday acknowledged the cultural significance of Kanwar Yatra but reiterated that his government's priority remains saving lives amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Anoop Nautiyal from Social Development for Communities Foundation said, "This is a good decision. A big crisis has been averted. We all witnessed what happened in Mahakumbh 2021. Honorable CM is right that God would not want people to die."
"Kanwar is part of the Sanatan culture but saving lives is paramount. Government's focus is to ensure that COVID does not spread," Dhami said addressing a meeting of all morchas (wings) of the state BJP here.
It is still uncertain whether or not the Kanwar Yatra will be held this year with the third wave of the coronavirus knocking at the country's doors.
Even the Indian Medical Association's Uttarakhand chapter has written to the Chief Minister requesting him to learn from the "previous failure" and not allow Kanwar Yatra in the interest of the state and the whole country.
People had to pay a heavy price for going off guard after the first wave which had led to a stronger and more fatal second wave, IMA Uttarakhand Secretary Amit Khanna said in a letter to Dhami.
The Haridwar Kumbh held in April had led to a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Dhami, who met central leaders in Delhi including the Prime Minister to discuss a range of issues, has been saying repeatedly that saving human lives is important.
However, a categorical statement from him on whether or not the Kanwar Yatra will be held this year is still awaited.
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 crores of Kanwariyas from neighbouring states like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi gathering in Haridwar to collect the holy waters of the Ganga.
Dhami also assured his party that the state government will finish all development work taken up within the stipulated time frame and an action plan for this is ready.
The monsoon may cause some interruptions in the work but by August 15 all government orders (GOs) will be out, he said.
State BJP president Madan Kaushik asked all office bearers of the morchas to stay in their areas or blocks for at least 10 days every month.
Praising all morchas for their performance during both waves of COVID, he said they had done a commendable job by holding blood donation camps, distributing masks, sanitisers and oxygen cylinders among people, getting them vaccinated and helping them get hospital beds.
Asking them to gear up for the assembly polls scheduled to be held early next year, Kaushik said the party members had to take the message of a young leadership and the slogan of securing 60 plus seats to the people of the state.
(Inputs from ENS)