Only 1200 pilgrims will be allowed to visit the Badrinath temple, 800 pilgrims to the Kedarnath temple, 600 pilgrims to Gangotri and 400 pilgrims to Yamunotri on a daily basis.
The Uttarakhand High Court in a major decision lifted the stay on the Char Dham Yatra paving the way for the state government to welcome devotees from all parts of the country for the pilgrimage. The High Court, which had earlier put a stay on the state cabinet decision to allow Char Dham Yatra in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, also instructed the government to make adequate arrangements for the Covid-19 testing and other medical facilities, the Indian Express reported. Hours after the HC decision, the state Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami announced on Twitter that the Yatra will ensue from September 18. Dhami said that his government welcomes the devotees and pilgrims for the Char Dham Yatra and Hemkund Sahib ji Yatra in the state.
The state government had earlier knocked the door of the Apex Court resorting to the Special Leave Petition against the earlier High Court order of banning the Yatra. The government made a rethink later and withdrew the SLP to only file a review petition in the High Court against its June 28 stay order. The government finally got the go-ahead from the High Court however, the court did point out the dangers in conducting the pilgrimage event. Highlighting the low coverage of vaccination among adults (18-44) in the three districts that will host the yatra, the court warned that if the infection rises after the entry of outsiders, the residents of these three districts would be the most affected.
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The court pointed out that the Chamoli district has only 16 percent adults with double vaccination while Rudraprayag and Uttarkashi districts have 22 percent and 19 percent adult residents with double vaccination respectively.
How will Char Dham Yatra be conducted?
In the standard operating procedure submitted before the court, the government said that it would allow only 1200 pilgrims to visit the Badrinath temple, 800 pilgrims to the Kedarnath temple, 600 pilgrims to Gangotri(origin of mighty river Ganga) and 400 pilgrims to Yamunotri(origin of Ganga’s tributary Yamuna) on a daily basis. The court pointed out that the number of devotees allowed to visit the Badrinath temple be reduced to 1000 per day while it agreed with the number of visitors at other holy places.
Char Dham Yatra guidelines
The pilgrims are also expected to produce a negative Covid-19 test certificate or a double vaccination certificate to gain entry at the pilgrimage sites.
The High Court in its order also directed the state police department to post an adequate number of personnel and enforce the Covid-19 protocol at all the pilgrimage sites.
The court ordered that no pilgrim be allowed to take bath in any of the streams at the holy spots.
The court also ordered the state government to inform the devotees about the nearby health facilities including availability of beds, availability of a helicopter in case of emergency among others.