Uttarakhand Chief Minister, Tirath Singh Rawat on Tuesday, 13 April, said that one cannot compare the ongoing Kumbh Mela which is in an open place to Nizamuddin Markaz, an enclosed space that has annual foreign visitors.
Rawat, as quoted by PTI, said:
“There should be no comparison between Kumbh and Markaz. The Markaz was held in a closed space, in a Kothi like structure whereas the Kumbh is being held in the open on the sprawling ghats of the Ganga.”
The Kumbh Mela is a Hindu pilgrimage held every 12 years at river ford sites along the Ganges river in India. The ongoing pilgrimage has drawn flak for worshippers flouting COVID norms, as seen from emerging visuals.
The CM was asked why the two should not be compared since they both draw large crowds and could threaten another surge of COVID-19. India is acknowledged to be in second, deadlier wave of the pandemic.
“The devotees attending Kumbh are not from outside but our own people. Moreover, when the Markaz was held there was not much awareness about Corona nor were there any guidelines. No one knew for how long the attendees of the Markaz had remained in the confines of the structure,” the CM said, as quoted by PTI.
The CM reiterated that there is more awareness around COVID now, and it is his government’s goal to ensure the event is held successfully and guidelines are strictly followed, for which arrangements have been made.
Masks and sanitizers are available at the Mela, and there will be checking at border points, as well as random testing within the pilgrimage, added the report.
On the account of increasing COVID cases, a negative RT-PCR test report not older than 72 hours before arrival has been made mandatory for the devotees.
Rawat noted that arrangements have been made to deal with any fallout, and despite the rise in COVID cases, the recovery rate is good. He added that health is a priority, but matters of faith cannot be ignored.
Despite the country’s ongoing struggle with the COVID-19 surge, as many as 31 lakh people have taken ‘snan’ in and around the Kumbh Mela area till 6 pm on Monday, 12 April, the Police Control Room said, according to news agency ANI. The ‘snan’ went on till 9 pm.
The crowd had assembled at Har ki Pauri ghat on the river banks to take a holy dip on the occasion, violating all COVID-19 norms.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, in a letter to the Uttarakhand chief secretary, had said that as many as 20 pilgrims are being reported COVID-19 positive daily at the Kumbh.
Rawat's remark comes a day after the Delhi High Court on Monday, 12 April, observed that there will be no cap on the entry of devotees at Nizamuddin Markaz, also known as Banglewali Masjid, when other religious places have no such sanctions.
It directed the Centre and Delhi Police to open up Masjid Bangley Wali for prayers during Ramzan, in accordance with Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) guidelines.
The court order stated that the prayer area for Namaz will be measured on Monday itself, and blocks will be made following social distancing norms, to mark where prayer mats can be put for devotees.
Uttarakhand on Tuesday reported 1,925 positive COVID cases, the highest single-day spike this year in the state.
(With inputs from PTI)