A decrease in Covid-19 cases over the past week has led to calls for the gradual start of the Dham yatra tank at four of Uttarakhand’s holiest Hindu shrines. The pilgrimage was scheduled to start on May 14 but was postponed to May 29 over fears it would become another super-propagator event after the Mahakumbh.
The government of Uttarakhand has been widely criticized for its mismanagement of the Mahakumbh and for violating the security protocol. The Center was also criticized for allowing the event to take place. The Mahakumb coincided with a second wave of Covid-19 that overwhelmed the healthcare system.
Only priests from Char Dham shrines were allowed to perform rituals and worship after they opened last month.
A section of saints said the pilgrimage should be allowed on a gradual basis, as was done the previous year with Covid protocols in place.
Akhil Bharatiya Akhada Parishad Secretary General Shri Mahant Hari Giri Maharaj said the pilgrimage should be restricted as the pandemic spread alarmingly in March and April, but now residents of neighboring villages and districts should be allowed gradually while ensuring a safe pilgrimage.
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Uttarakhand Minister Satpal Maharaj said the state was considering a plan to allow the Char Dham pilgrimage for residents of Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Uttarkashi.
Mahamandaleshwar Hari Chetnanand Maharaj of Shri Panchayati Bada Udasin Akhada said that Char Dham is related to spiritual and religious aspects as well as to the livelihoods of Hill State. He pointed out that even the Haridwar-Rishikesh belt trade largely depended on the Char Dham pilgrimage.
Uttarakhand Taxi-Maxi Hill Union (Pauri) transporter Kotwal Singh Negi said Covid-19 had hit them hard for two years and the pilgrimage was essential for them. He added that otherwise they will not even be able to pay the annual tax levied on commercial vehicles.
Haridwar carriers and travel agents submitted a memorandum saying the pilgrimage should be allowed.
Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri and Gangotri are collectively referred to as Char Dham and millions of people visit them every year. The pilgrimage begins in Yamunotri in the west. It then heads towards Gangotri and finally towards Kedarnath and Badrinath in the east.
The pilgrimage could not start last year as planned on April 26 with the opening of the portals of Yamunotri and Gangotri, the first two shrines opened after the winter, due to the confinement imposed to control the spread of the pandemic. in March 2020.
The shrines were opened to local pilgrims on July 1 of last year and to those from other states on the last week of this month. In September, the government of Uttarakhand removed the requirement to have negative reports on Covid-19 for pilgrims to undertake the pilgrimage.