HARIDWAR: The Maha Kumbh mela officially ended on Friday. Around 91.5 lakh pilgrims converged at Haridwar since the mela ritualistically began on Jan 14 on Makar Sankranti, as per data provided by the mela officials. Of these, over 50 lakh pilgrims were recorded in the month of April alone — the official duration of the mela as announced by the state government —- when three shahi snans were held amidst the raging Covid-19 pandemic. During the shahi snans — on April 12, April 14 and April 27 — there was a cumulative turnout of over 48 lakh pilgrims as per officials.
Local residents alleged that Kumbh mela and district authorities did not implement the Covid-19 guidelines properly and allowed seers and pilgrims to visit the mela without a negative RT-PCR report and valid registration due to which the pandemic situation worsened in Haridwar where more than 10,000 positive cases and more than 50 deaths have been reported in the last 10 days.
Sachin Dabral, a social activist who has filed a PIL in the Uttarakhand high court over mismanagement in the Kumbh mela, told TOI, “Mela and district administration failed completely to implement the Covid -19 SOPs for the Kumbh mela and now people of Uttarakhand are suffering due to this as the Covid-19 situation has become out of control here and people are dying due to lack of basic health facilities. Mela administration must show the data of pilgrims who reached Haridwar with proper registration along with RT-PCR report.”
When queried, mela administration officials claimed that all possible efforts were done to implement the SOPs. Additional mela officer Harbeer Singh told TOI, “Pilgrims were not allowed to visit without a negative report and registration. Since many pilgrims used the Kumbh mela website to register themselves, this data is being compiled.”
Kumbh mela police meanwhile claimed that lakhs of vehicles and pilgrims were returned from the borders sine they did not have valid registration and Covid-19-negative report.
Sanjay Gunjyal, IG Kumbh, told TOI, “Both mela and district police were deployed on all the borders of the district to check the pilgrims. Around two lakh pilgrims were returned during the mela period from the borders since they did not have Covid-19-negative reports or valid documents.”