The Supreme Court on July 14, 2021 issued a notice to the Uttar Pradesh government for allowing the ‘Kanwar Yatra’ in the state in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. An SC bench headed by Justice R F Nariman issued a notice to the state government and posted the matter for hearing on July 16, 2021.
Justice R F Nariman said to Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, “The citizens of India are completely perplexed. They don’t know what is going on. And all this amid the Prime Minister, when asked about a third wave of Covid striking the nation, saying ‘we cannot compromise even one bit.”
Justice Nariman further stated, “We are issuing notice to the Centre, the state of UP and the state of Uttarakhand and because the yatra is scheduled to leave from 25 July, we want them to file an early response so that the matter can be heard on Friday.”
What is the matter about?
The UP government led by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on July 13, 2021 allowed the Kunwar yatra from July 25 despite concerns raised by various quarters over the risk posed by such events in triggering a possible third wave of COVID-19.
The UP Chief Minister however urged that only a minimum number of people should participate in the annual Kanwar Yatra this year and directed strict implementation of the COVID-19 protocol.
Uttarakhand calls of Kunwar Yatra
• Uttarakhand has called off the Kanwar Yatra this year citing the pandemic risk in the view of a possible third wave of COVID-19. Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami announced the decision saying “even the gods will not want people to die.”
• Dhami said that they discussed this a lot and spoke to authorities and officials of neighbouring states and the conclusion was that they don’t want to turn Haridwar into a centre of the pandemic.
• The Kunwar Yatra 2021 was proposed to be held from July 25 to August 6. The yatra was last organised in 2019 and nearly 3.5 crore devotees had visited Haridwar during the time, while over 2-3 crore people had visited pilgrimage spots in Western UP.
What is Kunwar Yatra?
Kunwar Yatra is a pilgrimage, which is undertaken annually by the devotees of Lord Shiva. The devotees, mostly from northern states travel on foot to collect water from River Ganga at Haridwar in Uttarakhand to offer at Shiva temples in their areas.
The Kunwar Yatra 2021 is scheduled to begin on July 25. The yatra was cancelled last year due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and ensuing lockdown.
IMA advises against Kunwar Yatra
• Indian Medical Association (IMA) had previously urged the Uttarakhand government to not go ahead with Kanwar Yatra this year. The medical body had, however, added that a negative RT-PCR test report can be made compulsory for pilgrims if required.
• There are concerns across the country about the Kanwar Yatra becoming yet another superspreader event of COVID-19.
• The Uttarakhand government had faced massive criticism earlier this for holding the Maha Kumbh in Haridwar, which experts say contributed to a spike in COVID-19 cases across the country.