While people on social media are drawing parallels between the mega Kumbh Mela at Haridwar and the Tablighi Jamaat congregation at Delhi's Nizamuddin Markaz last year, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat on Tuesday defended the situation staunchly.
"Markaz was in a closed hall. All the people slept in a single hall with close contacts. They shared blankets. On the contrary, there are 16 ghats in Kumbh. Not just Haridwar, Kumbh is spread from Rishikesh to Nilkanth. Devotees take bath in different ghats at different times," Rawat contended.
The Chief Minister's assertion notwithstanding, hundreds of devotees at the site of the world's biggest religious festival tested positive for COVID-19. The virus was detected in more than 1,000 people in just 48 hours in the city of Haridwar, which lies along the holy river where the Kumbh Mela is being observed, officials told AFP.
Under normal circumstances, the Kumbh Mela continues for nearly four months but this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the duration of the congregation has been curtailed to one month. This year it was going to be held from April 1 to April 30. However, according to an NDTV report, the Kumbh Mela is likely to close today itself. The decision was taken after discussions between the Uttarakhand government and religious leaders, the news channel quoted sources as saying.