Dehradun | Jagran News Desk: Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat on Thursday announced that the famous Char Dham yatra in the state has been suspended this year in wake of the rising coronavirus cases in the country. Rawat, who was widely criticised for his mishandling of Kumbh Mela 2021 amid the pandemic, said that only priests of the four temples will be allowed to perform rituals and puja.

This comes a day after the Uttarakhand government released the guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the four-day pilgrimage to Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamunotri and Gangotri amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Uttarakhand Tourism Minister Satpal Maharaj had said that the state government is committed to holding the famous Char Dham Yatra, which was set to begin from May 14.

"We have made the negative RT-PCR report mandatory for Char Dham Yatra to ensure that the infection does not spread," he had said earlier.

Last year, the Char Dham Yatra began on July 1 for local pilgrims. The shrines were opened for devotees from other states from the last week of July. The Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board officials had said that nearly 3.1 lakh devotees had participated in the yatra last year.

Meanwhile, the Uttarakhand government was heavily criticised for its handling the Kumbh Mela 2021 in the state where COVID-19 cases have been rising exponentially. However, the state government had defended itself, saying appropriate guidelines and SOPs to check the spread of the infection were issued by it.

Later, the Kumbh Mela was called off by the Juna Akhara after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal to keep it 'symbolic'. The Prime Minister had requested that participation in Kumbh should be "symbolic" amid spike in COVID-19 cases.

"Spoke to Swami Avdheshanand Giri ji on the phone today to know about the health of all the saints. All the saints are giving all kinds of support to the administration. I thanked them for this," he had said.

Meanwhile, Uttarakhand recorded the highest single-day spike of 6,054 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, taking the tally to 1,68,616, while 108 deaths pushed the toll to 2,417.

Dehradun district accounted for the maximum number of 2,329 cases, followed by Haridwar, which reported 1,178 cases, Udham Singh Nagar 849, Nainital 665, Chamoli 175,Pauri 174 Champawat 153, Almora 140, Bageshwar 128 and Tehri 109, a state health department bulletin said.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma