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Amarnath Yatra is likely to be called off as Covid cases surge

File photo of devotees on the Amarnath Yatra | PTI
File photo of devotees on the Amarnath Yatra | PTI

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New Delhi: With over 3,400 deaths and 3.8 lakh Covid-19 cases reported across the country in the last 24 hours, the Amarnath Yatra scheduled from 28 June to 22 August is most likely to be cancelled this year as well, ThePrint has learnt.

According to a source in the Jammu and Kashmir administration, the decision-makers are on board for cancelling the yatra amid the surging Covid wave.

While the decision to hold or cancel the yatra is taken by an advisory committee in the Union Territory of J&K, chaired by the Lieutenant Governor, the central government too can recommend the same. The final call, however, is taken by the committee along with members of the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB), responsible for planning and execution of the yatra.

“The talks are on and the yatra is likely to be cancelled. This call is being taken keeping in mind the growing cases of coronavirus and how fast the infection is spreading. Large gatherings like these can worsen the situation and thus a conscious call is being taken to call it off,” the source said.

“A formal announcement shall be made soon once the decision is finalised,” the source said.

The registration for the yatra, which started from 1 April was temporarily put on hold from 22 April due to the Covid situation.

The 56-day yatra to the 3,880-metre-high shrine was scheduled to start from the twin routes of Pahalgam and Baltal. It was cancelled last year as well due to the pandemic and the SASB broadcasted the rituals from the cave shrine of Amarnath.

In 2019, the pilgrimage was curtailed ahead of the scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status as the erstwhile state was locked down and a communications blackout was imposed.

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Char Dham Yatra called off

Earlier this week, the Char Dham Yatra to the four famous Himalayan shrines — Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and the Yamunotri — in Uttarakhand was also suspended in view of the Covid situation.

The pilgrimage was scheduled to begin on 14 May.

On Thursday, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat announced the decision. The doors of the four Himalayan temples, however, will open as scheduled and the puja and rituals will be performed only by the priests.

Speaking to ThePrint, Uttarakhand Tourism Minister Satpal Maharaj said the Char Dham pilgrimage has been suspended in view of the Covid surge but the decision could be reviewed by the end of May. He said only those pilgrims vaccinated minimum 15 days before coming to the state will be allowed to visit Char Dham shrines once the pilgrimage resumes, in phases.

“The Char Dham pilgrimage has not been stopped but suspended for now in view of rising numbers of Covid positive case in the state and across the nation. Besides, most of our officials and employees are presently engaged in Covid managment tasks and they cannot be spared for pilgrimage or any other tasks,” he said.

“However portals of all four shrines will be opened as per calendar and daily rituals will be carried out as before. Nevertheless it will be done maintaining strict Covid-appropriate behaviour. Even locals will not be allowed to gather beyond a certain number,” said the minister.

Prithviraj Singh contributed to this report.

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