The Kanwar Yatra -- an annual pilgrimage to Haridwar in Uttarakhand -- has been cancelled by the state government as the number of coronavirus cases rise across the country.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat took the decision after consulting the Union Home Ministry as well as neighbouring states. He informed Home Minister Amit Shah of the state's worsening Covid-19 situation, who in turn gave him the green flag to cancel the pilgrimage, Times of India reported.
Rawat also held a conference with Chief Ministers of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, and later thanked them for cooperating in the matter.
The UP government said that the decision was taken in "public interest" after consulting with religious leaders and Kanwar sanghs, according to The Hindu.
The Uttarakhand CM is scheduled to hold video conferences with Punjab CM Amarinder Singh, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot as well.
TOI quoted an Uttarakhand government spokesperson as saying that despite pilgrims not being allowed to Haridwar, gangajal will be supplied to other states in tankers if modalities allow.
Meanwhile, a UP government spokesperson told The Hindu that in accordance with Covid-19 protocols, five or less people would be allowed to participate in jal abhishek rituals locally.
Tanmaya Vashistha, Ganga Sabha General Secretary, was among those who welcomes the decision. He was quoted by TOI as saying that crores of people come to the Kanwar mela every year, and could be exposed to Covid-19 infection.
Held during the month of shravan, the Kanwar Yatra lasts for two weeks. According to government estimates, approximately 5 crore pilgrims -- mostly fro UP, Delhi and Haryana -- participate in it. This year, the pilgrimage was to take place from July 6 to July 20.