'Protecting people's lives is our priority," said Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami as he cancelled the Kanwar Yatra for the year 2021. While speaking to India Today, the newly appointed CM said, "the decision to cancel this year's Kanwar Yatra in Uttarakhand was taken because saving lives during the Covid-19 pandemic is our priority."
The minister was in Delhi for a range of meetings with various Union ministers after the major cabinet reshuffle.
"People's security is our top priority. That's the reason why we cancelled the Kanwar Yatra even before the Supreme Court order. We will also inform the court about our stand," he said.
However, Dhami refused to comment whenn asked about the Uttar Pradesh government's decision to go ahead with the Kanwar Yatra.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court issued notices to the UP government and the Centre over the UP government's decision to go ahead with the Kanwar Yatra amid the pandemic. Issuing the notice, the Supreme Court said it was "little disturbed" to read that UP has chosen to continue with the Kanwar Yatra, while Uttarakhand with its hindsight of experience, has decided against it.
On July 13, the Uttarakhand government decided to heed the advice of the Union Health Ministry and cancel the Kanwar Yatra this year owing to the impending third Covid wave. "Even the gods will not want people to die. The priority, at the moment ,is to save lives," Dhami had told reporters in New Delhi on Sunday when asked whether or not the yatra will be held.
Notably, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) had also written to Pushkar Singh Dhami to disallow the Kanwar Yatra this year in light of the possible third COVID-19 wave. In the letter, IMA Uttarakhand State Secretary Dr Ajay Khanna expressed concerns about the crowds that may gather for the annual pilgrimage and urged Dhami not to allow devotees from outside to enter the state for the Yatra.
The Kanwar Yatra was cancelled in 2020 also due to increasing coronavirus cases.