“A stampede-like situation may arise if we would try to enforce social distancing at ghats,” Inspector-General of Police, Haridwar Kumbh Mela, said.

Devotees gather at Har Ki Pauri ghat in Haridwar to offers prayers during Kumbh Mela 2021, amid surge in Covid-19 cases across countryPTI
Coronavirus Coronavirus Tuesday, April 13, 2021 - 16:16

Lakhs of devotees have been gathering at the Kumbh Mela in Uttarakhand’s Haridwar, even as the country is witnessing record high COVID-19 cases. Worrying visuals put out by multiple news channels and websites show devotees and tourists not adhering to any of the COVID-19 guidelines. According to reports, over 18,169 devotees were tested between 11.30 pm on Sunday and 5 pm on Monday, among which 102 were found positive for coronavirus.

It is noteworthy that the Uttarakhand government had decided to shut schools in three districts including Haridwar, where the Kumbh is taking place this year. The closure of schools was announced for students of classes 1 to 12 till April 30. This decision was taken keeping in mind the ongoing Kumbh Mela and the surge in COVID-19 cases in the state. 

At a time when the country is witnessing a second wave with COVID-19 cases surging and many states imposing partial lockdowns, authorities and health experts have expressed concern over the crowds at the Kumbh Mela. Large crowds have been gathering at the river banks to take a holy dip in the river Ganga, ignoring norms of physical distancing and the use of face masks.

Police officials say they have been finding it difficult to implement the regulations as well. “A stampede-like situation may arise if we would try to enforce social distancing at ghats so we are unable to enforce social distancing here,” ANI quoted Inspector-General of Police, Haridwar Kumbh Mela, Sanjay Gunjyal, as saying.

The IG said that they are continuously appealing to people to follow COVID-19 appropriate behaviour. “But due to the huge crowds, it is practically not possible to issue challans today. It is very difficult to ensure social distancing at the ghats,” he added.

The Kumbh Mela is one of the biggest religious events in the country which takes place every 12 years, and the venue is chosen from amongst four cities – Allahabad, Haridwar, Nasik and Ujjain. This year, according to Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat, about 35 lakh people have participated in the event.

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