Noting that Kumbh Mela 2021 is scheduled to commence from 27th February 2021 and taking into account the concerns expressed with regard to organizing and conducting of the Mela, the Uttarakhand High Court on Monday (11th January) directed the State Authorities to discuss the ways and means which need to be utilized for resolving the logistical problems of organising Kumbh Mela 2021.
The Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan and Justice Manoj Kumar Tiwari further asked the Central Government to take steps for issuance of Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) dealing with Kumbh Mela 2021.
The Concerns raised before the Court
The writ petitions before the Court raised issues with regard to tackling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Counsel for the petitioners expressed their anxiety that until and unless the inflow of people is controlled, until and unless safe accommodation is provided, until and unless the number of people congregating at the "ghats" is totally controlled by the Civil Administration, Kumbh Mela 2021 may become the breeding ground for spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
The Counsel further submitted that, since people from all over the country and abroad do congregate at Kumbh Mela, the infection of COVID-19 may be carried back by the pilgrims to different parts of the country.
Therefore, it was argued that concrete plans need to be prepared by the Government, for permitting the people to enter the State, and to reach Haridwar.
Moreover, it was also stated that concrete decisions need to be taken as to how to resolve the logistical problems created by congregation of large population, especially in these abnormal times of COVID-19 pandemic.
The Advocate General drew Court's attention to the affidavit filed by the State. However, the Court observed,
"The affidavit, in a nutshell, merely contains certain assurance that concrete steps will be taken for managing the congregation of a large population. However, the essential data is conspicuously missing."
Therefore, the Court directed the Chief Secretary, the Additional Secretary, Public Health, the District Magistrate, Haridwar, the Mela Adhikari to convene a meeting and "to discuss the ways and means which need to be utilized for resolving the logistical problems of organising Kumbh Mela 2021."
The Court also directed the Advocate General to place before the Court, the decision of the meeting, and of the Government with regard to taking the concrete steps for resolving the difficulties on 13th January 2021.
Further, the Assistant Solicitor General was directed to inform the Court with regard to any guidelines issued by the Central Government, including the Home Ministry and the ICMR.
He was further directed to request the Central Government to take steps for issuance of Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) dealing with Kumbh Mela 2021.
The matter has now been listed for further hearing on 13th January 2021.