New Delhi: The Chardham Yatra in Uttarakhand is all set to begin form today (September 18, 2021) after its prolonged suspension due to COVID-19. A day after the Nainital High Court lifted the ban on Chardham Yatra and allowed only fully COVID vaccinated people with a mandatory COVID-19 negative report for the annual pilgrimage, the Uttarakhand government issued a detailed SOP to start the yatra from Saturday with strict adherence to COVID-19 norms.
The court also imposed a daily limit on the number of pilgrims visiting the Himalayan temples and ordered devotees to follow strict COVID-19 protocols. According to the SOP issued by the state government, over 1,000 pilgrims are allowed daily on Badrinath, 800 on Kedarnath, 600 on Gangotri and 400 on Yamunotri.
The SOP also stated that the pilgrims will have to carry a document certifying administration of both doses of the anti-COVID vaccine at least 15 days back or a negative RT/PCR/TrueNat/CBNAAT/RAT COVID-19 test report not older than 72 hours.
Additionally, pilgrims coming from other states will have to compulsorily register at the Smart City portal. The court has also directed that no one will be allowed to take a bath in any of the springs around the temples. Police force will be deployed as per requirement during the Char Dham Yatra in Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Uttarkashi districts.
The Uttarakhand High Court vacated its stay on Chardham Yatra on Thursday in view of the decline in positive cases of the pandemic. The state government was also under pressure to start the yatra as the livelihoods of lakhs of people are linked with the annual pilgrimage.
The yatra remained suspended for months due to the pandemic in 2020 and opened in the month of June with a total of 3,21,609 devotees visiting temples during the entire season amid the Covid-induced restrictions.
Meanwhile, Chief Secretary SS Sandhu visited Kedarnath on Friday and directed officials to make adequate arrangements for a safe pilgrimage to the Himalayan shrine.
Sandhu, who also reviewed the progress of the reconstruction projects at Kedarpuri, directed the officials to expedite work without compromising on quality. He advised them to set a weekly target and examine whether they had achieved it at the end of the week in order to speed up the pace of work.
(With PTI inputs)