Hours after PM Modi's Appeal, Juna Akhara Chief Calls off Kumbh Mela amid Worsening Covid Crisis

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The chief of Juna Akhara, Swami Avdheshanand Giri, on Saturday called off the ongoing Kumbh Mela in Haridwar hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an appeal for the same over the prevailing coronavirus crisis. In a tweet, Giri said that India’s citizens and their health are outmost priority for the seers. “In view of the worsening outbreak of the pandemic, we have duly immersed all the deities drawn from the Kumbh.” Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the Kumbh Mela, which is already at the fag end with only one ‘shahi snan’ or royal bath remaining, should now just be made symbolic given the Covid-19 situation in the country.

Hours ago, Giri said, “Faith is a big thing, but human lives are far more important… We must all realise that the strain of coronavirus was not as aggressive or fatal earlier as it is at present. So my appeal to the emotional devotees is that they should attend the Kumbh fair in limited numbers.”

The ongoing Kumbh Mela has been at the centre of controversy amid fears that it could be a superspreader event with lakhs of devotees attending the event as the second wave of the coronavirus surges uncontrollably.

However, the Juna Akhara’s latest move would not mean the end of the event as there are still some akharas, including the Nirmohi, Nirvani and Digambar akharas, who are insisting on going ahead with the next ‘shahi snan’. While the Bairagi akharas have welcomed PM’s appeal, they have said they will go ahead with the shahi snan on April 27, while urging devotees to maintain distance.

A majority of the 48.51 lakh people who took part in the last two royal baths held on the occasion of Somwati Amavasya on April 12 and Mesh Sankranti on April 14 were seen openly violating COVID-19 norms like wearing of face masks and social distancing. President of Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad, Mahant Naredra Giri was admitted to AIIMS, Rishikesh after testing positive for the disease last week. Mahamandaleshwar of Maha Nirvani Akhara from Madhya Pradesh, Swami Kapil Dev, who was under treatment for COVID-19 at a private hospital here, died on April 13.

A total of 1,701 people had tested positive for COVID-19 in the Haridwar Kumbh Mela area from April 10 to 14 confirming fears that one of the world’s largest religious gatherings may contribute further to the rapid rise in coronavirus cases.

India on Saturday saw yet another record high of Covid-19 cases in 24 hours with 2,34,692 fresh Covid cases and 1,341 deaths. Active cases in India are now at 16,79,740. The total number of cases stand at 1,45,26,609, total recoveries are at 1,26,71,220 and the total death toll is 1,75,649. Ten states including Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan have reported 79.32% of the new cases.

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