Planning to embark on the Char Dham Yatra? Check Uttarakhand’s Covid-19 protocol

By: |
September 18, 2021 1:35 PM

The high court has capped the number of devotees visiting the shrines each day at 1,000 for Badrinath, 800 for Kedarnath, 400 for Yamunotri, and 600 for Gangotri.

char dham yatraThe Char Dham Devasthanam Board will issue travel e-passes for the temples through its website. (File)

Uttarakhand High Court has lifted ban on the Char Dham Yatra and allowed the state government to conduct the annual pilgrimage following strict Covid-19 protocols. A division bench of Chief Justice R.S. Chauhan and Justice Alok Kumar Verma said while removing the ban that the pilgrimage would have certain restrictions.

Covid-19 guidelines
The Uttarakhand government has made it mandatory for devotees embarking on the yatra, which begins today, to either have a certificate for both vaccine doses or a negative test report to obtain e-passes.

Pilgrims from Maharashtra, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh — the three states with high active Covid-19 caseload — would have to furnish a negative Covid-19 test report even if they are fully vaccinated.

All stakeholders and pilgrims must behave in a Covid-appropriate manner, the Uttarakhand’s standard operating procedure said. Pilgrims from outside the state would also have to register on Dehradun’ smart city portal.

The Char Dham Devasthanam Board will issue travel e-passes for the temples through its website.

High Court’s SOPs
The high court has capped the number of devotees visiting the shrines each day at 1,000 for Badrinath, 800 for Kedarnath, 400 for Yamunotri, and 600 for Gangotri.

It has also made a negative Covid-19 report mandatory for all devotees embarking on the yatra. The pilgrims would also need to furnish their vaccination certificates to travel to the temples.

Holy dips and baths in any of the springs surrounding the temples have also been banned. The high court has also ordered the state government to deploy police personnel as per requirement in Rudraprayag, Uttarkashi, and Chamoli districts.

The case before Uttarakhand HC
The Uttarakhand cabinet planned to conduct Char Dham Yatra in phases for out-of-state pilgrims depending on the Covid-19 situation.

However, on June 28, the high court stayed the yatra, while hearing a plethora of public interest litigations on the surge in Covid-19 cases and inadequate health infrastructure.

The Uttarakhand government moved the Supreme Court and filed a special leave petition against the stay. However, the case was not heard. The state government recently requested the high court bench to vacate the ban. However, it refused to hear the plea as the matter was pending before the apex court. The high court verdict came after the state government withdrew the special leave petition.

State’s arguments
Advocate General S.N. Babulkar and C.S. Rawat, Chief Standing Advocate, demanded lifting of the ban to restore the local people’s livelihood.

Babulkar said the yatra provided employment to people and many families would suffer financial losses if there was no pilgrim footfall during the season. He pleaded that the court’s initial concern while imposing the ban had been addressed. He also said there was significant improvement in the state’s healthcare services.

The government also assured that it would frame strict Covid-19 guidelines and ensure adherence during the yatra.

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