UP allows Kanwar Yatra amid COVID-19; Supreme Court seeks response
The Supreme Court of India has sought a response from the Uttar Pradesh government over its decision to allow the Kanwar Yatra despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The top court took suo motu cognizance of the matter and also issued notices to the central government and the Uttarakhand government, which has decided to cancel the pilgrimage in its territories.
'We are disturbed,' the top court says
"We are a little disturbed," a two-judge bench of Justices RF Nariman and BR Gavai said citing a news report on the matter. The court has sought an early response from all the concerned parties and the next hearing is set for Friday, July 16.
'Citizens of India are completely perplexed'
"We wish to know the stand of the respective governments. The citizens of India are completely perplexed. They do not know what is going on," Justice Nariman said, according to Live Law. "We are issuing notice to the Centre, UP, and Uttarakhand and because the Yatra is to leave from July 25, we want them to file early responses," the judge added.
UP gave green flag to Yatra, Uttarakhand suspended it
On Tuesday, the UP government said it would allow the Kanwar Yatra to take place from July 25 with lesser number of people and COVID-19 protocols in place. However, the government of the neighboring Uttarakhand, took a starkly different stand, canceling the pilgrimage. "Even the God will not want people to die," Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said about the decision.
Recently, top medical body had requested cancellation of Yatra
"We have discussed this a lot...We don't want to turn Haridwar into an epicenter of the pandemic," Dhami, who became the Uttarakhand CM just earlier this month, said. His announcement came one day after the Indian Medical Association requested him to suspend the pilgrimage.
What is the Kanwar Yatra?
Each year, around 30 million (three crore) devotees of Lord Shiva from several North Indian states travel on foot or otherwise to the city of Haridwar. They collect water from the Ganga river there and later offer that at Shiva temples in their respective areas. People from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Delhi, and Himachal Pradesh participate in the fortnight-long pilgrimage.
Earlier, the Kumbh Mela led to a surge in COVID-19
Earlier this year, the Uttarakhand government had faced severe criticism for going ahead with the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, which triggered a massive surge in coronavirus cases, according to experts. It was then suspended midway after an appeal from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Reports also suggested that more than one lakh fake COVID-19 tests had been conducted ahead of the religious festival.
India's coronavirus situation
India had faced the world's worst coronavirus outbreak earlier this year, but the situation has since improved. The country has been reporting around 40,000 cases in the past few days. However, experts have warned that a third wave could hit India soon. PM Modi yesterday warned against crowds and urged people to continue following protocols such as wearing face coverings and maintaining social distance.