Uttarakhand govt optimistic about yatra this season

Dehra Dun : The portals of Kedrantah shrine, one of the most revered temples in Uttarakhand Himalayas, open for the public in about a fortnight from now, on April 14 to be more precise. The question that seems to be on everyone’s mind, particularly the stake holders, what will be the response of the pilgrims to the char dhaam yatra this time?

It is not only that the weather has been rather bad for this time of the year, but whether the efforts that have been made by the state government and also the staff of Uttarkashi-based, Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM) to make it convenient for the pilgrims to have the darshan at the Kedarnath shrine will bring in the desired results.

With the state meteorological department predicting more rain and snow around April 11, the almost 20 kms trekking route to the shrine would be in a bad shape. Not only will there be snow, despite efforts by the state government and NIM employees to clear the track, but at places it is likely to be rather slippery also, making it that much harder for the initial batches of pilgrims.

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It may be recalled that the char dhaam yatra was almost a write-off last year with not even a wee percentage of the normal pilgrims, whose numbers run into lakhs, visiting the four shrines of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamnotri and Gangotri. The large number of stake holders from the dhabas to the lodges and mule owners, who are virtually dependant upon the pilgrims for their livelihood were left hard and dry.

However, officials here feel that there may be a turn around in the number of pilgrims participating in the char dhaam yatra this year, and the fear of the June 2013 tragedy that left thousands dead may well have been forgotten. They base their optimism on the fact that about 12,000 people from all over the country have made their bookings to visit the Kedarnath shrine this year.

They feel that the bookings is an indication that the fear that had shrouded the pilgrims last year may well be on the wane if not forgotten completely, which is why there has been this number of bookings, which no doubt is less than the expectations, but enough for there to be a sense of optimism that all may not be lost this year also.

Government sources said that the roads leading to the shrines will be completed at all costs by April 20, irregardless of the delay due to the erratic weather conditions. The chief minister as also the tourism minister have had various rounds of meetings with the concerned officials and told them in plain words that the yatra this year should not suffer the same fate as it did last year because of shortcomings of the state government’s efforts.

They said that the state government on its part had also invited a number of tour operators from various parts of the country so that they could have first hand knowledge of the prevailing conditions on the yatra route, so that they were fully satisfied before making bookings for tour groups for the yatra this season.

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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