And now the Nanda Devi Raj jat yatra may be called off in Uttarakhand

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Dehra Dun : Incessant rains coupled with natural calamities are taking a toll of the pilgrimage ‘yatras’ in Uttarakhand.

First it was the char dham yatra, which was devastated by the June 16-17 tragedy. Following this the Ministry of External Affairs decided to call off the Kailah Mansarovar yatra because the route had been badly damaged by rains and landslides. And now there are doubts over the Nanda Devi Raj jat yatra.

With most of the yatra route of the Nanda Devi Rajjat in disarray, with reports that many of the small bridges that had been washed or swept away have yet be reconstructed and stretches of the track having been eroded by landslides, there are fears regarding the safety of the pilgrims who will be participating in the yatra beginning on Aug 29. Incidentally, the yatra this year is taking place after a period of 13 years and will be led by a four-horned ram.

While the state government had initially given a lot of attention to the yatra and touted it as the event of the decade in this small mountain state, but following the June 16-17 tragedy, it was decided to keep it a low key affair. Over the period of time the state government decided to pull away from organizing the yatra, as reports regarding the poor shape of the route and bridges having been swept away, which could not be replaced in time, started trickling in.
Uttarakhand tourism minister, Amrita Rawat, is reported to have written to the Nanda Rajjat Committee to rethink in terms of organizing the yatra and taking into consideration the condition of the route and safety of the pilgrims who will be participating, to postpone it for the time being.

aking into consideration the appeal by the tourism minister and the fact that the state government had almost withdrawn from organizing it, the Committee members are having a rethink.

The state government had made it clear that as the government machinery is completely involved in the rescue and relief operations following the June 16-17 tragedy, it was not in a position to provide the necessary manpower for undertaking the necessary repairs and construction works on the Raj jat yatra. Even the district magistrate, Chamoli had in a confidential report to the state government had appraised it of the dangers to the pilgrims should the yatra take place.

The committee members have been appraised of the fact that a number of pedestrian bridges and stretches of the route have been washed away in the incessant rains that have lashed the state for almost two months now and the state government has not been able to spare the necessary man power for repairing the same. As such, the tourism minister has appealed to the Committee members to reconsider the decision on organizing the yatra.

While assuring the Committee of full support as and when the yatra is scheduled to held some time later, the state government has mentioned that though a sum of rs 90 crores had been kept aside for undertaking repairs and construction of the Rajjat yatra route, but taking into consideration the rains, it was not possible to complete the works. Further with the rains showing no signs of abating even the Committee is having second thoughts on whether to go ahead or not.

Meanwhile, a member of the committee said that there were serious discussions being held on whether to postpone the yatra or not, adding that a final decision had yet to be taken. He said that a reccee of the yatra route had been taken and it was found to be in a terrible shape. “The yatra involves a distance of about 280 kms, passes through great heights and glaciers with about 19 stops, and under the prevailing conditions at the ground level, things are not very optimistic”, he claimed.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

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