Dehradun: First it was the char dham yatra. Then to be disrupted was the Kailash Mansarovar yatra and the final blow to pilgrimage in Uttarakhand came when the Nanda Devi Rajjat was also postponed for next year.
With the Uttarakhand government dependant totally on pilgrims for tourists, tourism infrastructure in this small mountain was never given a thought by successive governments, ever since the state was carved out of Uttar Pradesh way back in Nov 2000. In 13 years, the governments did not take even13 steps forward towards developing tourism infrastructure.
The net result is that tourism activity has been confined to pilgrimage and small and bing tome players have concentrated their efforts only at the pilgrim townships in the state. Though there is a Nainital, Mussoorie,
Kausali, Kausani, Corbett and a number of enchanting places in the upper reaches but the focus has always been on the pilgrimage centres.
And now with the yatras having taken a beating and the June 16-17 floods having shaken the very confidence of the people wanting to visit Uttarakhand, the state government is at its wits end on how to get lure the tourists and pilgrims. Restoring this confidence is going to be a tough job, as even the relief and rescue operations post June 16-17 leeft much to be desired.
Union minister K Chiranjeevi said that the state government had informed that there is an 85 per cent fall in the tourism sector. “According to the Uttarakhand government, due to the natural calamity, domestic and foreign tourists are hesitant to come not only for the char dham yatra, but even visit Nainital and Mussoorie”, he added.
He went on to say that since a large number of people in Uttarakhand are employed in the tourism (read pilgrimage) industry, there is a possibility that the affected lower level employ segment may have moved to other states in search of a livelihood. This is going to make it that much harder for this unorganized infrastructure to get back its moorings, which will hit the economy of the region.
This is perhaps why all efforts are on to restore the pilgrimage in the state and the government is putting in extra efforts to ensure that prayers are resumed at the Kedarnath shrine by September 11. But the manner in which the weather is behaving, a lot will dependant upon the conditions that prevail in the coming days if the deadline is to be met.
However, informed sources said that it was very doubtful to meet the Sept 11 deadline as so far the weather conditions had prevented even the removal of debris, specially the remains of the large number of construction that were destroyed in Kedarnath in the tragedy that struck.
“It is well known that there still could be a number of bodies still buried under the debris though about 350 bodies have been removed and their cremation done after taking the DNA samples. But according to fears there could still be quite a few bodies that may still be lying there under the debris that need to be removed and cremated”, they added.
However, a positive move has been taken by chief minister Vijay Bahuguna when he said that the government was contemplating drawing out fresh separate alternate approach roads to the five major shrines – Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamnotri, Gangotri and Kedarnath – for which the Geological Survey of India had been asked to conduct a survey.
While this would prevent the presence of a large number of tourist on one road who could be hit should a natural calamity strike the region, another factor would be that only one or two roads would be closed in case of a landslide or flash flood and the other roads would be opened, from where the pilgrims could be taken out in case of an emergency.