As the Uttar Pradesh government has refused to stop Kanwar Yatra, the Uttarakhand government is drafting a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to handle pilgrims who might enter the state despite the government suspending the procession within its boundaries.
DGP Ashok Kumar said security forces will be deployed on Uttarakhand borders and Kanwar enforcement teams have been constituted in every district. The officer said if any Kanwariya is spotted anywhere, he will be taken off the road with all respect and dropped back to the state borders. And if any Kanwariya is found near one of the holy sites, the Kanwariya would be taken to the nearby temple to offer prayers and then dropped back.
The DIG (Law and Order) Nilesh Anand Bharne said to stop pilgrims from entering the state via trains, these will be halted before Haridwar with pilgrims deboarded and taken to the nearby border.
Separately, each district will draw up its own SOP for enforcement of the ban on the yatra, such as keeping shops that sell items connected to it shut.
Uttarakhand receives the bulk of the Kanwar yatra pilgrims, headed for places such as Haridwar, Gangotri, and Gaumukh to collect Ganga waters to carry back home as offering at Shiva temples. The yatra had been suspended last year too, like this time, due to Covid. In 2019, Uttarakhand had received around 3.5 crore pilgrims.
The Uttar Pradesh government has given a go-ahead to the annual Kanwar Yatra from July 25, and directed officials to coordinate with the neighbouring states to ensure Covid guidelines are followed.
But, amid fears of the third wave of Covid-19, the Uttarakhand government has cancelled the Kanwar Yatra this year while Uttar Pradesh is still devoted to begin the annual ritual with Covid restrictions in place.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami had held a meeting with the top state government officials and decided to cancel the Yatra. After the meeting, Dhami had said that the Uttarakhand government is not interested in turning Haridwar into a Covid hotspot and do not want to put people’s lives at risk. He said the government have decided to cancel the Kanwar Yatra in view of the Covid third wave fear. God wouldn’t want lives to be lost, Dhami had said.