Only 8 pilgrims to take road to Kedarnath this year

Posted on Apr 11 2014 - 2:55pm by IBC News

DEHRADUN: Only eight pilgrims have registered for road travel towards Kedarnath this year. Nearly 13 lakh had visited Kedarnath and Badrinath last year, during the Char Dham Yatra.

Rattled by last year’s devastation, only 77 devotees have opted for the chopper service for Kedarnath this year.

With the Char Dham Yatra, the backbone of Uttarakhand’s economy, scheduled to kick off in the first week of May, it is clear that the state is set to lose hundreds of crores in revenue.

The Char Dham Yatra used to have over 2 crore visitors throug the pilgrimage season. It fueled the economy of Uttarakhand, triggering money circulation in the form of taxi rides, hotel bookings, chopper rides and road taxes.

This year, the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN) has only 294 bookings, including 77 for Kedarnath, for the Char dham Yatra.

Every year, the GMVN does the majority of bookings for the Yatra. The low headcount this year is making it difficult to sustain its guest houses and transport fleet.

“Every devotee used to spend at least Rs 4000 a day while on Yatra. If the numbers come down to say 2 lakh, then the overall money collection as taxes by the government or private by the hoteliers, tour operators and other shopkeepers will become miniscule in comparison to previous years,” BJP leader Prakash Pant, a former minister, said.

Stunned by the low head-count, the state government has held meetings with over 250 tour operators based in Ahmedabad and Mumbai.

“In the meetings we are telling the private tour operators about arrangements made by the state government in all the four shrines. This includes the medical facilities, helipads, emergency services, communications and transport,” said a senior Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board official.

At Kedarnath, chief minister Harish Rawat, has announced that over 1000 devotees would be allowed daily, for whom prefabricated structures, food, and power arrangements are being placed in and around the shrine.

The state government has set April 20 deadline for completing the road repair work on the Yatra route.

The tardy pace of repair work is now forcing the state government to expand helipad services for pilgrims this year.

“For Kedarnath, everyone is now opting for chopper services and the new policy will be announced in couple of days. The air route will be preferred by devotees from far off places to reach Uttarakhand,” said the official.