“We are our choices.”
― Jean-Paul Sartre
So, are we wise enough to convene a gathering of devotees amidst the pandemic?
Irrespective of all the precautions and measures taken by the government for the Maha Kumbh, nearly 1700 pilgrims, and 2,167 people in Haridwar, have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Dr S.K. Jha, CMO of Haridwar. The health department of the city has conducted over 2, 28,650 tests at the mela site, including antigen, RT-PCR, and TrueNat. But to handle a massive gathering during a pandemic was not an ideal decision.
The CMO itself agreed that tests are being done at Haridwar, Dehradun, Pauri, and Tehri; and the pilgrims are required to show a negative RT-PCR report but to execute all of this on the ground is next to impossible.
The Health Secretary- Amit Negi added that due to the ‘floating population’, it has been difficult for the authorities to conduct the tests. Therefore, he has pleaded with the High Court to curtail the 50,000 RT-PCR Covid test limit per day in Haridwar. But there has been no confirmation from the state to shorten the duration of the holy event in the lieu of rising cases.
After the first wave of the pandemic, we were doing fine and the cases were not surging but we witnessed a rise in the cases in February and we still chose to hold this event. We are the ones who criticized the Tablighi Jamaat last year to conduct a meeting amidst the COVID outbreak. According to a New York Times report, that meeting was the “largest viral vector in Southeast Asia”.
If that meeting of evangelical Muslims was condemned by the government then doesn’t the same rule apply to them? Why don’t they practice what they preach? How will the citizens trust the government with this hypocritical behaviour?
According to a report from ANI, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat on Tuesday said that the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar should not be compared to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation at Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi last year. He even said, “The Markaz attendees were all inside a building and here it is out in the open, near the Ganges. The flow and blessings of ‘Maa Ganga’ will ensure that coronavirus does not spread. The question does not arise of a comparison.”
These are our leaders, whose religious sensibility is way beyond scientific facts and theories. Mr Rawat even added that the Kumbh is being held when we have much more awareness about the virus, in contrast to Nizamuddin Markaz.
But, on a serious note, can we justify the surging cases with the faith in religion? If we had much more awareness about the virus then we should have avoided such mass gatherings. But, did we? No, we did not because ‘Ganga Maa’ will take care of the virus. According to Article 51 A [h], it is the duty of every citizen to ‘develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform’. So, have the ministers forgotten their duties as the citizen of this nation?
Since the outbreak of the virus, we have all been focusing majorly on social distancing. Walking on the same path, why didn’t we call Kumbh off this year? The cases have been ascending since February but our authorities turned a blind eye to it. Now, Haridwar and Dehradun on the verge of becoming virus hot-spots and the states are still not shortening the duration, because obviously, the devotees are waiting for the third ‘Shahi Snaan’, which will be on April 27.
We still don’t have a cure for the virus and the only solution that our authorities have is night curfews and weekend curfews. They could have taken the precautions but they chose the road less travelled by and that is making all the difference for us now.
How do I feel as the local of this state, you ask?
Honestly, it is horrifying to witness thousands of cases around you. One doesn’t feel safe to go out even for the basic amenities because people are so ignorant even about wearing a mask. Haridwar and Dehradun might be the next hot spots, as we have witnessed over 2000 cases in the past 5 days and we are definitely not ready for a total lockdown. The authorities should have thought this through and they should not have held the Mela this year, or maybe only with a reduced capacity.
Now, who will take responsibility for the rising cases and death toll? The government will obviously blame the people for not having followed the guidelines properly but the situation would not have been there in the first place had their decision been rational.