Mussoorie, Dehradun, July 15
Damaged roads, falling boulders and pilgrims stranded on the Char Dham Yatra route have become a regular feature during the monsoon in the Garhwal region.
This year, businessmen were hopeful that their businesses would revive and they would be able to make up for heavy losses suffered due to the natural disaster of 2013. However, with a subdued yatra season this year these businessmen are thinking of closing their units altogether and looking for greener pastures elsewhere. This has led to large scale migration from hills that is still going on at an alarming rate.
The slow pace of restoration and renovation works post-2013 natural disaster, especially in Uttarkashi district, has also not helped the cause as damaged roads and falling boulders remind local residents of the calamity that they would like to forget.
The Asi Ganga and the Bhagirathi, which caused large scale deaths and devastation in 2013, still make people shiver in fear whenever it rains and the water level in these rivers rises.
Around 1.5 lakh devotees have paid obeisance at the Gangotri shrine till now, but the number of pilgrims has dwindled considerably in the last 10 days with only 2,308 pilgrims reaching the shrine.
On Monday, only 80 pilgrims reached Gangotri mainly due to damaged roads. The number of pilgrims visiting the Yamunotri shrine has also fallen and this despite the fact that the highway to Yamunotri has remained open most of the time even during the inclement weather.
In the last 10 days, 1,696 pilgrims have reached the Yamunotri shrine. Pilgrims, who braved the fury of the monsoon and were stranded on the way this year, are thinking about abandoning the yatra.
The slow pace of the yatra and the dwindling number of pilgrims have left the business community sulking as it was hoping to make up for the losses of the past two years.
Meanwhile, the opposition is blaming the government for the pilgrims’ loss of faith. Former BJP legislator from Gangotri Om Gopal Rawat says the Congress-led state government has been guilty conscious since the 2013 natural disaster and is spreading confusion among pilgrims by announcing the opening of the yatra one day and its closure next day.
He says had the government worked with honesty and speed all roads in the area would have been reopened and the yatra would have continued uninterrupted.
Prayag Bhatt, president of the disaster management and mitigation cell, said the Chief Minister was giving insufficient time to disaster-related issues and his concern could be gauzed from the fact that a separate cell for disaster management had been created in the state for the first time.
He said the government was committed to restoring the yatra and faith among the pilgrims at any cost.
Courtesy: The Tribune