DGP Ashok Kumar, who held a meeting with police officers on the issue Thursday, said forces will be deployed on Uttarakhand borders, for which assessment of the number of police personnel required had been done, and kanwar enforcement teams constituted in every district. The yatra begins around the last week of July.

WITH neighbouring Uttar Pradesh among others saying it will not stop the kanwar yatra, a cautious Uttarakhand is drafting a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to handle pilgrims who might enter the state despite the government suspending the procession within its boundaries.

DGP Ashok Kumar, who held a meeting with police officers on the issue Thursday, said forces will be deployed on Uttarakhand borders, for which assessment of the number of police personnel required had been done, and kanwar enforcement teams constituted in every district. The yatra begins around the last week of July.

Any kanwariya spotted anywhere would be “respectfully” taken off the road and dropped back to the state borders, the officer said. If found near one of the holy sites, a kanwariya would be taken to the nearest temple to offer prayers, and then dropped on the border.

To ensure kanwariyas don’t arrive by trains, these will be halted before Haridwar and checked, with the pilgrims deboarded and taken to the nearby border, said DIG (Law and Order) Nilesh Anand Bharne.

Separately, each district will draw up its own SOP for enforcement of the ban on the yatra, such as keeping shops that sell items connected to it shut.

Also among proposals on the table is putting any kanwariya entering Haridwar under quarantine for 14 days, after which they would be sent back. Kumar said the Haridwar district police chief will speak to the District Magistrate on this.

Uttarakhand receives the bulk of the kanwar yatra pilgrims, headed for places such as Haridwar, Gangotri and Gaumukh to collect Ganga waters to carry back home as offering at Shiva temples. The yatra had been suspended last year too, like this time, due to Covid. In 2019, Uttarakhand had received around 3.5 crore pilgrims.

The state action follows its experience of the Kumbh Mela, which had led to a spurt in cases just before the start of the deadly second wave of Covid.

The kanwar enforcement teams, to be constituted in Haridwar, Dehradun, Tehri and Pauri Garhwal district, will patrol the routes traditionally taken by the pilgrims.

An IG-rank official will soon hold a meeting with police officers from districts of bordering states to explore the option of dispatching Ganga water by tankers on demand of devotees.

Police authorities are also planning meetings with kanwar associations and committees regarding the ban on the kanwar yatra. Details of the meetings will be recorded so that if somebody violates the Epidemic Diseases Act, action can be taken.

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