Uttarakhand judiciary against the state carelessness regarding religious gatherings under COVID-19

Uttarakhand judiciary against the state carelessness regarding religious gatherings under COVID-19

The Hon’ble High Court of Uttarakhand has recently come down heavily on the state government for being negligent about the management of the crowd that had gathered in the Kumbh Mela 2021. The Hon’ble court has also warned the government about the repetition of the same mistake in case the Chardhaam Yatra is also allowed by the Hon’ble court.

What is Kumbh Mela and Chardhaam?

Kumbh Mela is a festival celebrated in Hinduism in a cycle of twelve years as Jupiter completes a revolution around the sun. the festival is celebrated through a mass gathering in four religious pilgrim sites of India namely, Prayagraj: the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati, Haridwar: Ganga, Nashik: the Godavari, and Ujjain: Shipra. The devotees come from far and wide to take a dip in the holy rivers as it is believed by popular culture that doing so, cleanses human beings from all their sins and brings them closer to the attainment of Moksha or salvation. the celebration witnesses a gathering of a large number of saints, huge fair, cultural performances, circuses, and other forms of entertainment apart from the religious rites. 

Chardhaam is taken to be the set of the four most important pilgrimage sites that every Hindu must visit at least once in his lifetime as defined by Adi Shankaracharya. These are Dwarka, Puri, Haridwar, and Rameshwaram. A visit to these four religious sites is again taken to be a closer path towards the door of salvation.

The main issue:

This year, Haridwar had been clammed by a crowd of at least ten million devotees as they came to attend the fair and take a dip in the holy Ganges. Usually, a lot of people die as a result of the stampede and that has been taken to be a normalized peril. But this year, covid 19 provided us with an extra reason to worry and the government has not been able to manage the situation with due care and concern. The basic precaution to hinder the spread of covid 19 is to maintain social distancing. The police authorities were expected to monitor that the same is followed and that the priests as well as the devotees wear masks and do not gather at a place in large numbers at the same time. When the court had granted permission for the celebration of the festival, it was implied that the state government would maintain the necessary norms.

However, there have been videos circulating all over the social media, soon after a few days from the celebration of the festival, showing completely irresponsible management on the part of the government. None of the priests or devotees have been seen wearing masks or maintaining social distancing. There have been instances where there have been twenty-three priests entering the temple at the same time. While the court respects the religious beliefs of the people, the image of the country especially the state of Uttarakhand being polluted on global platforms is a matter of prime concern. It has been reported that proper arrangements of SOPs or medical facilities have also not been there. Justice Alok Verma and Chief Justice Raghavendra Singh Chauhan, on 20th May, observed that Kedarnath and Badrinath have been flooded with people and no monitoring has been observed. In times when the world is already criticizing India with its management of the second wave of the pandemic, the political rallies, elections, campaigning, and religious gatherings, if allowed by the Hon’ble court need to be strictly monitored as the non-compliance with such protocols tarnishes the reputation of the country. 

As much as the Hon’ble court understands that the state cannot perform any miracle by arranging for doctors practicing in Delhi and NOIDA in a hilly area like Uttarakhand, the basic maintenance of the rules laid down by the Hon’ble court was the least expected. 

On 10th May, the Hon’ble court laid down the guidelines to be followed by the state government as well as the monitoring bodies for carrying out the Chaardhaam Yatra under proper surveillance. Reduction in the negligence of the government will not only relieve the Hon’ble court but also the people about their security in the nation.

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