Dehra Dun : The failure of the char dhaam yatra to draw the lakhs of pilgrims this year following the heavy casualties in the ‘Himalayan tsunami’ last year despite all the assurances and confidence building measures of the Uttarakhand government, has awoken the authorities that be, from their slumber and focus upon the need of actually developing the infrastructure for the tremendous tourism potential that this small state has.
State tourism minister Dinesh Dhanai admitted that the number of participants in the char dhaam yatra this year was not even ten percent of what it normally is. He added
As against the 25 lakh pilgrims who visited the char dhaam shrines in the state last year, the state received just 2.31 lakh pilgrims uptill now this year, a fall of over 90 per cent.
He also rued the fact that because of the almost complete breakdown of the char dhaam yatra this year, because of the almost negligible number of pilgrims coming for it, Uttarakhand had also for the first time since 2001, lost its place among the top ten popular tourism destinations in the country. This has particularly hit the stake holders in the tourism industry.
But apparently the tourism planners of the state were so dependent upon the char dhaam yatra, that they did not even think it proper to develop the required infrastructure and promote tourism in real earnest in the state, despite the fact that those who had planned the carving out of Uttarakhand from Uttar Pradesh had touted tourism as one of its major sources of revenue.
The seriousness of the authorities that be, can be gauged from the fact that the tourism department failed to utilize the Rs 25 crores that was given to the state government as the first installment of the Rs 50 crores Nirmal Gangotri mega project by the centre and it will now have to be aborted. In fact the government may have to return the Rs nine crores that were spent on the project in two years.
The Gangotri region of this small hill state is an important tourist destination in as much that not only lakhs of pilgrims come to the source of the Ganga annually to have a dip, but the Gangotri National Park also abounds with wildlife and wildlife lovers come here in large numbers. Besides it is also an important hub for trekkers, but rather than utilizing the money promptly to create the necessary infrastructure for the tourists, the money was allowed to lapse by the concerned authorities.
Now the government is mulling is carving out five tourism circyits to promote spiritual, cultural, tribal, adventure and yoga tourism. It is a sad story that something which should have been done immediately after the small hill state was carved out from Uttar Pradesh way back in Nov 2000, is being done now.
The proposal has now been sent to the centre for allocation of funds. But the moot point is, whether the funds will be utilized or allowed to lapse the same way as in the Nirmal Ganga project.
There is also need for the planners to create new tourist destinations, amongst the large picturesque places of interest and this small hill state has, so that there is no overcrowding in the traditional tourist destinations of Nainital, Mussoorie, Dhanolti and Kausani, which burst at their seems during the tourist season and are not able to accommodate the large numbers that throng there.