Uttarakhand makes efforts to restore confidence of pilgrims

Dehra Dun : With the Uttarakhand government not able to restore the confidence of the pilgrims over the country and other corners of the globe, after the June 13 tragedy a couple of years back that left thousands dead and missing, efforts are now being made in this direction in the hope that the char dham yatra will return to its glory of yester years.

It may be mentioned here that normally every year lakhs of pilgrims undertake the yatra to the four pilgrim shrines of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamnotri and Gangotri in the upper reaches of the Uttarakhand Himalayas, but following the June 2013 tragedy there was not even a lukewarm response to the yatra last year, despite a large scale exercise launched by the state government.

Char Dham

With not even a miniscule percentage of the normal crowds that normally undertake the yatra every year turning up last year, the economy of the upper reaches of this small mountain state which is greatly dependant upon the pilgrims, was hit rather badly and the stake holders who were badly hit by the very low trun out had no where to go.

Feeling that the number of advertisements in newspapers and magazines was not enough to revive the yatra by restroing the confidence of the pilgrims, the state government has started doing what it should have done even earlier before the tragedy. It has now decided that the number of pilgrims to the Kedarnath shrine will be limited and all pilgrims undertaking the yatra to the four shrines will be registered.

Official sources said that arrangements had been made for the stay of 3000 pilgrims overnight at Kedarnath while another two thousand will stay between Soneprayag and Kedarnath at the halts that have been made on the trekking route to the Himalayan shrine. There are 18 points where the pilgrims will be able to register themselves.

There is a general feeling that controlling the crowds could restore the confidence of the pilgrims as the main reason for the large number of feared dead and missing was primarily because of the large number of crowds that had converged at the Kedarnath shrine and along the trekking route, who found themselves stranded with no where to go, when the ‘Himalayan tsunami’ hit the region.

Meanwhile other efforts of the state government to send the message to the pilgrims that the yatra route had been restored and there was nothing to fear, in an effort to increase the numbers seem to have misfired. There was a lot of talk of president Pranab Mukherjee visiting the shrine on April 24, when the doors of the temple would be opened for the pilgrims, and this had been widely publicized.

But apparently the President has decided to cancel his proposed visit which has come as a setback to the state government, which was hoping that Mukherjee’s visit would not only give the much needed wide publicity but more importantly send the message that all is safe on the yatra route and at the temple town.

Efforts were also being made to film a documentary of the region with the voice of celebrated Bollywood celebrity, Amitabh Bachan, but he has declined to do the offer citing lack of time and preoccupied schedule. Likewise efforts to rope in skipper of the Indian cricket team M S Dhoni, who incidentally originally belongs to Uttarakhand also seem to have fallen flat.

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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