Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said that the Kumbh Mela should now be held as a “symbolic event” due to the coronavirus situation.
In a couple of tweets on Saturday morning, the prime minister said that he had spoken in this regard to Avadeshanand Giri of Juna Akhada, one of the 13 religious clans taking part in the Mela.
“I spoke to Avadeshanand Giri ji over phone,” Modi tweeted. “All the seers are cooperating in every possible manner. I have urged them to keep the Kumbh a symbolic event due to the coronavirus pandemic, now that two ‘Shahi Snaan’ are completed. By doing so, we will get strength to deal with this situation.”
Avdheshanand Giri of Juna Akhara said they respect the prime minister’s appeal. “I request the people to not come for snan [bath] in large numbers, in the wake of Covid situation, and follow all rules,” he tweeted.
However, social media users and commentators pointed out that the prime minister’s intervention is late and that he had endorsed the Kumbh Mela earlier.
A final decision on concluding the event will only be taken by the Akhada Parishad, the top body of the akhadas. Akhada Parishad President Narendra Giri himself has been infected with the virus and is being treated in Rishikesh. The head seer of the Maha Nirvani Akhada from Madhya Pradesh, Kapil Dev, died due to coronavirus on April 13.
However, on Wednesday, Uttarakhand state government officials ruled out the possibility of curtailing the Kumbh Mela, even as coronavirus cases continued to rise in Haridwar. The Mela is being attended by lakhs of pilgrims every day during a massive second wave of coronavirus in the country. The violation of Covid-19 protocols has attracted attention from across the world. However, state authorities, including Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat, have sought to downplay the threat.
On Thursday, 613 people tested positive for the virus in Haridwar and one person died, according to official data. Nearly 2,800 samples have tested positive in the district in the last six days. There were as many as 3,612 active cases in the district on Thursday.
Uttarakhand recorded its highest single-day rise in Covid cases since the outbreak of the pandemic with 2,220 people testing positive on Thursday.