Right Uttarakhand move on Kanwar yatra, put health above polls

The double standard of the authorities is also evident in the Uttar Pradesh government’s decision to press ahead with the Kanwar Yatra in its state from July 25.

Published: 15th July 2021 07:32 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th July 2021 07:32 AM   |  A+A-

 Kanwar yatra

The Uttarakhand government’s decision to cancel the annual Kanwar Yatra needs to be lauded. The event draws about 120 lakh participants, far more than the officially estimated 40 lakh devotees who thronged the Mahakumbh Mela held at Haridwar from April 1 to 30. The Kumbh Mela, as has been well documented now, was disastrous for the hill state, causing a sharp spike in Covid-19 cases. Prior to the event on March 31, the total number of active cases in Uttarakhand was 1,863. This went up to 49,492, a massive jump of 2,600%, by the time the mela officially ended. The Kanwar Yatra had the potential to be a similar health disaster and its cancellation has quite rightly been applauded across all sections. But while the state government was bold to call this event off, it did not show similar resolve on the Char Dham Yatra just days earlier. The High Court suspended this annual event citing the ongoing pandemic, but the Uttarakhand government moved the Supreme Court last week, challenging the cancellation. The state needs to heed the counsel of health experts.

The double standard of the authorities is also evident in the Uttar Pradesh government’s decision to press ahead with the Kanwar Yatra in its state from July 25. Although the state has said it will strictly enforce all Covid norms, it must not be forgotten that such assurances were given by Uttarakhand as well for the Kumbh Mela. Quite clearly, UP’s decision is dictated by political exigencies as elections are due next year. Given the state’s polity where religious polarisation, cultural typecasting and caste schisms run deep, the BJP perhaps apprehends that cancelling the Yatra will hurt its faith-based politics. But it must remember that while the pursuit of power is the objective of politics, governance has to rise above such narrow gains. The pandemic cannot be defeated by electoral compulsions as the virus does not differentiate between religion, caste, creed or region. If political leaders are duplicitous and don’t set the bar for Covid-appropriate behaviour, the common man can hardly be blamed for throwing all caution to the wind and heading for hill stations.


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