18 Jul 2021: UP cancels Kanwar Yatra amid fears of COVID-19 third wave
The Uttar Pradesh government on Saturday canceled the annual Kanwar Yatra a day after the state was asked to reconsider the pilgrimage amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier, UP had decided to proceed with the yatra even as Uttarakhand suspended the event. The SC, taking a suo motu cognizance of the matter, had given the UP government a deadline till Monday to reconsider its decision.
Details: Decision taken after state government's request
The yatra—which was scheduled to start from July 25—was cancelled by the organizers after the state government requested them, NDTV reported. "Kanwar Yatra has been cancelled by Kanwar sanghs on the appeal of the Uttar Pradesh government," Additional Chief Secretary of Information Navneet Sehgal told PTI. Notably, the Kanwar Yatra was cancelled last year, too, when the first wave of coronavirus pandemic had hit.
Hearing: UP government had said yatra will be 'symbolic'
The decision came after the UP government told the SC Friday that it would hold a "symbolic yatra" and only devotees who have been fully vaccinated would be allowed to participate. The submission was made as the SC had earlier sought responses from the Centre, UP, and Uttarakhand on allowing the Kanwar Yatra amid the pandemic. Meanwhile, the Centre did not oppose the yatra.
Court: Supreme Court rejected UP government's submission
The Supreme Court had disapproved the UP government's decision to hold the yatra "symbolically." It pointed out how the UP government's decision had "perplexed" people as health experts are advising against large gatherings. Giving an ultimatum, the court said it will be forced to pass an order if the state fails to reconsider its decision and the matter was slated for hearing on Monday.
Concern: Why was the pilgrimage cancelled?
As the threat of a third wave of COVID-19 is looming large, the fear is that the crowding and the lack of physical distancing in such a religious event may worsen the country's pandemic. Earlier, Haridwar's Kumbh Mela had to be canceled midway after it triggered a massive surge in COVID-19 cases. Considering the pandemic, the Uttarakhand government had already canceled the Kanwar Yatra.
Pilgrimage: What is Kanwar Yatra?
Each year, around 30 million devotees of Lord Shiva from several North Indian states travel to the city of Haridwar. The devotees then collect water from the Ganges river and offer it at the temples of Lord Shiva in their respective areas. People from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Delhi, and Himachal Pradesh usually participate in the fortnight-long pilgrimage.
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