Amid a surge in COVID cases across India at a time when the Kumbh Mela is in full swing, Panchayati Niranjani Akhada chief Ravindra Puri also tested positive for the disease, hours after the Akhada announced that it will withdraw from the Mela on Saturday, 17 April.
The decision of withdrawal by the Akhada came after over 30 sadhus, across several Akhadas tested positive for COVID-19.
“Till now, 30 sadhus have tested positive for COVID-19. The cases are not in any specific akhada. There are cases in almost all the akhadas, including Niranjini, Juna and others,” Haridwar Chief Medical Officer Dr SK Jha told NDTV.
However, Puri had earlier said that some sadhus will take part in the fourth ‘Shahi Snan’ on 27 April from their Akhada.
An influential group, Panchayati Niranjani Akhada consists of at least 13 religious sects at the Kumbh Mela.
Several Prominent Sadhus Infected
Among the 30 who tested positive is Mahant Narendra Giri – one of the prominent leaders of the All India Akhada Parishad. He has been admitted to AIIMS, Rishikesh.
The leader of Maha Nirvani Akhada, Swami Kapil Dev, lost his life to COVID at a private hospital in Dehradun. Amid debates over the Kumbh Mela being held right in the eye of a ferocious second wave of the pandemic in India, Uttarakhand recorded a 2,200-case spike within 24 hours on Thursday.
Kumbh Mela to Continue
Haridwar District Magistrate and Kumbh Mela officer Deepak Rawat said that he had no information on the duration of the festival being curtailed.
“Kumbh Mela used to begin in January. But looking at the COVID-19 situation, the state government decided to start it in April. The Centre's SOP said that in the wake of the situation, the period (of the Mela) be reduced. I have no info if it's being curtailed,” he had told ANI on 14 April.
According to the Kumbh Mela police control room, 13,51,631 people took a dip in the Ganga on Wednesday, which marked the Baisakhi festival.
Uttarakhand CM Tirath Singh Rawat, too, drew flak on Wednesday for his comments, saying that the Kumbh Mela cannot be compared to the Tablighi Jamaat that was organized in 2020.
“They (Markaz attendees) were all inside a building and here it is out in the open,” Rawat had said, adding that the Kumbh Mela is near the Ganges. “The flow and blessings of Ma Ganga will ensure that coronavirus does not spread. The question of a comparison does not arise.”
Under normal circumstances, Kumbh lasts for nearly four months. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the duration of the festival has been limited from 1 April to 30 April.
(With inputs from NDTV and ANI)
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