Kumbh Mela officials have made all arrangements for the three key bathing dates on the banks of Ganga. Mela officials say they do not expect huge turnout of devotees due to the Covid-linked restrictions imposed amid the spike in infections. “We always make arrangements for the Kumbh in accordance with the largest estimated turnouts. So, we are well prepared to tackle any situation,” Mela Inspector General, Sanjay Gunjyal said. The three Shahi Snan or major bathing days are on April 12, 14 and 27.
“But with the second wave of coronavirus infection and the SOPs in place, we don’t expect huge crowds on the ghats on the Shahi Snan days,” Mr Gunjyal added. Over 12,000 police and 400 paramilitary personnel are keeping an eye on Kumbh Kshetra, spread over an area of 670 hectares from Haridwar to Devprayag, to maintain law and order and ensure that the Covid protocols are strictly followed.
Held every 12 years, from January to April, this year’s Kumbh has been curtailed to just one month from April 1 to 30 due to the surge in Covid cases in many states including Uttarakhand, which is reporting more than 500 cases daily. Top priority is being given to stop the spread of the coronavirus infection during the religious congregations with RT-PCR tests of devotees being conducted at 30 places in the Kumbh area, Mela official (Medical) Arjun Sengar said. A total of 12 labs are testing samples and a dedicated Covid hospital with 550 beds is also ready, he said.
Meanwhile, seers representing 13 Akhadas, have also been asked to encourage devotees and their disciples and followers to take precautions. People are being made to adhere strictly to Covid protocols, according to the orders of the Uttarakhand High Court, which has made it compulsory for devotees coming to Kumbh to bring a negative RT-PCR test report not older than 72 hours.
Devotees are not being allowed to proceed to the Mela Kshetra without a health certificate from a competent authority. Around 35,000 RT-PCR tests are being conducted daily in the Kumbh Mela area and efforts are being made to increase the testing to beyond 50,000 per day.