Dehra Dun: The off-now, on-now Char Dhaam yatra to the four known pilgrim shrines of Uttarakhand – Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamnotri and Gangotri – is again off-now.
It is likely to remain so for another couple of days, till July 23 to be more precise, whereafter it will be decided on whether the yatra be allowed depending upon the weather forecast for rains.
Most of the districts in the higher reaches are in a state of high alert, following warnings of heavy rains by the met department. And after the Himalayan Tsunami of June 16-17 last year, no one is willing to take chances.
Most of the pilgrims who had come for the yatra are stranded somewhere in between their destinations to the four Dhaams.
Many have finally called it quits and returned home after days of wait and inability to proceed further with the roads either having been blocked due to massive landslides or portions simply washed away in the torrential rains.
Though the Char Dhaam yatra this year has been one of maimed credibility of the Uttarakhand government and shattered economy of the thousands of stake holders dependant upon it, the state issues lakhs of rupees worth of advertisements in national English and vernacular dailies on “Uttarakhand’s commitment : A safe and comfortable Char Dhaam yatra.”
Besides the moon, it promises motorable road functional /operational from Rishikesh to Gaurikund (Kedarnath), Rishikesh-Gangotri, Rishikesh-Jankichatti (Yamnotri) and Rishikesh Badrinath. There is also talk of slope stabilization work at Lambagad and also for development of alternative yatra route for the Kedarnath shrine.
The factual position is that a portion of the highway to the Badrinath shrine has been washed away, while there are huge landslides at Lambagad because of the torrential rains that have hit the higher reaches of this small hill state.
Pilgrims are stranded at various points on the Char Dhaam yatra and the administration is making efforts to get them to safer places.
Frustrated, many of the pilgrims keen to make it to at least one of the four Dhaams have finally decided to return, though some are intending to brave it out till the intensity of the rains recedes.
But they are no making bones of the promises made by the Uttarakhand government on a safe char dhaam yatra this year, following the deluge of last year in which thousands of lives were lost.
The cosmetic repair works on the roads and vulnerable slide zones that were done in a hurry to get the yatra underway did not last for long and the first heavy downpour revealed that the work had been done not only temporarily but in a hurry to appease the senior bosses and ensure that the pilgrims come for the yatra.
While many feel that the state government should have first consolidated the position at the ground level and ensured that the damage done by the June 16-17 flash floods in the region was repaired for a safe yatra, chief minister Harish Rawat feels that it was necessary to get the yatra underway this very season, despite the short comings as not doing so would have pushed the state back by two to three years.
Asserting that he had taken the decision of starting the yatra this season despite the odds, in the interest of Uttarakhand, he said that despite the heavy rains there was no loss of life on the yatra route, which showed the preparedness of the administration and that all necessary precautions had been put in place for any eventuality due to heavy rains.
Harish Rawat said that all pilgrims who were stranded at the four shrines had been brought down to safer places and were being provided food and shelter, adding that one could not take upon the vagaries of nature, but could be prepared for any adverse scenario.
The Chief Minister made no comments on the fact that hundreds of devotees, fearing the worst, were forced to give up the yatra mid-way and return.