A day after Uttarakhand announced cancellation of this year’s Kanwar Yatra in view of the Covid-19 situation, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said the decision was a difficult one as pilgrims come to the state from several northern states for the yatra.
The decision, he said, was taken in order to give “top priority to the protection of human life”.
In an interview to Hindustan Times, Dhami said, “The yatra is a matter of great faith and devotion for us. Crores of Kanwariyas come to carry water from the Ganga (in Haridwar). For us, it is a very difficult decision. The pilgrims come to Uttarakhand from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan… Haridwar is the centre of the yatra.”
“For us, people’s lives and saving them is of primary concern. For that, we have taken a tough decision with God as our witness. We are sure that God will not be pleased if because of our laxity, lives are lost. That is why we have stopped (the yatra),” he added.
One key factor that strengthened Dhami’s decision was the discovery of new coronavirus variant in Gadarpur of Uddham Singh Nagar district in Uttarakhand. “We kept that in mind and sought advice from all kinds of people. Our officers consulted their peers in Uttar Pradesh too and noted how infection rates continue to grow. Keeping all this in mind and since we are the host of the entire yatra, we did not want Uttarakhand to be the Covid hotspot… People know that we would have loved to have the yatra…,” he was quoted as saying in the interview.
The Uttarakhand government on Tuesday evening cancelled the 2021 Kanwar Yatra amid fears of a possible third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The decision was taken after a high-level meeting between Dhami and top officials of the state government. The Indian Medical Association yesterday had requested CM Dhami to cancel the Kanwar Yatra in view of Covid-19.
“We are not interested in turning Haridwar into a Covid-19 hotspot. We do not want to put people’s lives at risk. Keeping this in mind we have decided to cancel the Kanwar Yatra. We have to save lives. God wouldn’t want lives to be lost," said Dhami after the meeting.
The pilgrimage is undertaken each year by thousands of devotees of Hindu deity Shiva. These devotees, called Kanwariyas, walk hundreds of kilometres to collect water, usually from the river Ganga, and offer it in Shiva temples in their respective hometowns.