Even though the Uttarakhand government on April 7 asked the Railway Ministry to stop all trains heading for the state between April 11 and 14 over three million Hindu devotees from across India—possibly abroad too–took a holy dip in river Ganga in Haridwar on the auspicious occasion of Somvati Amavasya on Monday (April 12).
A similar gathering is expected on April 14 and 27. On Mahashivratri day, that is on March 11, something between 32 and 33 lakh devotees took bath on the occasion of ‘Shahi Snan’. Officials say that almost similar number of pilgrims took bath on Monday too.
Various television channels showed as to how the pilgrims were violating the restrictions laid down by the government following large scale rise in the cases of corona virus not only in Haridwar, but all over India. Very few pilgrims can be seen wearing masks, using sanitisers and maintaining social distancing, which is not possible in such a situation.
Media reports suggest a huge jump in corona virus cases in Haridwar in the last one week or so.
Those who have tested positive include many sadhus. Most prominent among them is the president of Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad Mahant Narendra Giri. He actually fell ill late on April 9 but his report came two days later. In the meantime, he had come across many devotees. He is now undergoing treatment in a private hospital.
Experts fear that such a huge religious gathering may wreak havoc and that too when COVID-19 is going out of control.
They are now directly holding the new chief minister Tirath Singh Rawat, who took oath after the resignation of Trivendra Singh Rawat on March 9 last, responsible for this crisis.
Tirath, on March 20, removed all sorts of restrictions in the number of pilgrims imposed by his predecessor and threw the Kumbh Mela open for everyone.
As reported earlier, the state government had adopted Standard Operating Procedure. Pilgrims were asked to come with corona test report. Those not coming with it were asked to undergo test. Those tested positive, were returned.
However, when the situation went out of control because of huge turn-out, the state government urged the Railway Ministry to stop the movement of trains. But it appears that it was too little, too late.