Surging COVID-19 cases cast a shadow over Char Dham Yatra
The rising number of coronavirus cases in Uttarakhand has begun to cast its shadow on the forthcoming Char Dham Yatra with no buses booked yet by devotees to travel to the famed Himalayan temples. The yatra begins next month with the opening of the Yamunotri temple on May 14. Notably, amidst a spike in coronavirus cases, the state is also hosting the Kumbh Mela.
Apparently, not a single passenger bus has been booked
"Advance booking of at least 500 buses for the yatra by this time of the year was normal, but not a single passenger bus has been booked yet raising concerns among people associated with the tourism industry about their trade," Sudhir Roy, president of yatra management joint rotation committee that runs the pilgrimage said. He described the scenario as extremely disappointing for bus operators.
Uttarakhand HC asked state government to issue SOPs for yatra
The Uttarakhand High Court has asked the state government on Wednesday to publish SOPs for the upcoming Char Dham Yatra. The High Court asked the state government that the pilgrimage should not turn into another Kumbh.
Buses should be allowed to run at full capacity: Roy
"When the yatra SOPs will be issued, the dismal scenario of tourism industry should be kept in mind and we should be allowed to run buses on the yatra route at full capacity to minimize the woes of people in the industry," Roy said. However, he said that a negative RT-PCR report not older than 72 hours can be made mandatory for the pilgrims.
Social distancing norms not must if pilgrims test negative: Roy
"If the yatris are COVID-19 negative, social distancing norms inside the buses will not be a must," he said. Roy has been connected for decades in important capacities with the body that manages the operation of buses on the route.
No one has inquired about the yatra yet: Roy
"Considering the fact that livelihoods of millions of people depend on the Char Dham Yatra making it the backbone of Uttarakhand's economy, bus operators deserve to be given this concession," Roy said. "There has been no inquiry yet either from across the country or abroad about the Char Dham Yatra, none about any bookings," Roy said.
Hemkund Sahib Yatra also faces a similar challenge
The annual pilgrimage had been hit by the pandemic last year as well with the full-fledged opening of the temples delayed by several months. The yatra to the Sikh shrine of Hemkund Sahib that begins on May 10 also faces a similar situation. "The inquiries for Hemkund Sahib Yatra have been too low this year," Hemkund Gurudwara management committee vice-president Narinderjit Singh Bindra said.
Uttarakhand recorded 4,807 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday
Uttarakhand on Wednesday recorded its highest single-day surge in COVID-19 cases since the outbreak of the pandemic with 4,807 people testing positive. The total tally across the state is 1,34,012 COVID-19 cases. The state has recorded 1,953 COVID-19 deaths and 1,07,166 recoveries so far.