At Kumbh, Devotees Ignore Covid-19 Protocols, No Masks, Thermal Screening in Place as 102 Test Positive

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Haridwar: Almost all parts of the country, including Uttarakhand, are witnessing a sharp surge in the number of coronavirus cases, forcing several states to declare night curfews, lockdown and restrictions.

But in Haridwar, where the thousands of devotees have gathered for the Mahakumbh, no mandates appear to be in practice. The devotees have assembled there in large numbers and not following the basic protocols of face mask or social distancing.

The Uttarakhand government is finding it hard to get people to follow the rules of thermal screening and wearing masks. The Kumbh Administration has failed on many fronts.

Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat, however, has claimed that during the 'Shahi Snan' of the Mahakumbh, the state administration followed all guidelines issued by the central government.

According to the Kumbh Mela Police Control Cell, more than 31 lakh devotees took a dip in the mela during the second 'Shahi Snan' on Monday. According to the health department, from 11:30 on Sunday till 5pm the next day, a total of 18,169 devotees were asked to undergo Covid-19 test and 102 were found to be positive.

Apart from these, at many places thermal screening was reportedly not conducted despite there being CCTV cameras in the area to ensure implementation of rules. A devotee from Agra said that while he was asked to show his negative report and screened for symptoms at the UP-Uttarakhand border, no such practice was followed at the mela.

The DGP of Uttarakhand, Ashok Kumar, said, "We are trying our best to get the guidelines followed by the people. From the security point of view, this is the biggest challenge for the Uttarakhand police. Due to Covid, almost 50 percent less devotees have arrived in the Kumbh. ”

On the day of Shahi Snan, a total of 13 Akhadas took dip in the Ganges. During this, the mela administration had made elaborate security arrangements. These Akhadas include 7 from Sanyasi Akhada, 3 from Bairagi Akhada and 3 from Vaishnav Akhada. All of them took a dip at the Brahmkund on the Har ki Paudi. Those who took the dip for Shahi Snan first included saints of Niranjani Akhada while saints of Shri Nirmal Akhada were the last to take the dip. After the saints of Akhada took their dips, common devotees were allowed to take a dip at the Brahmakund.

A large number of devotees took a dip in river on the eve of Somvati Amavasya in the Kumbah and the photos from the day went viral on social media. People compared the Kumbh event with that of the Nizamuddin Markaz gathering in Delhi in 2020. But Rawat said Kumbh gathering cannot be compared with Markaj as the latter was organised in a hall where people were also living. In Kumbh, he said, "there are 16 ghats and the expanse of Kumbh is from Haridwar and all the way to Neelkanth".

"People are taking dip at pre-designated places and for this also the time is fixed. This cannot be compared with Markaj," he said.

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