Badrinath: As the Uttarakhand government winds up rescue operations, it is faced with a fresh crisis. The Kedarnath-Badrinath temple committee wants to resume the Char Dham yatra from 2014. The state government says it may have to suspend the pilgrimage for 2 years.
The lord is in his temple but all is not well with Badrinath. The shutters have come down in the surrounding markets, most shops and guest houses have been locked. Owner of Saket restaurant Rajendra Kotiyal is preparing to leave as well. The Saket restaurant, facing the temple, has been his universe for the past 50 years.
But now, with all the pilgrims gone, he doesn't even have the money to pay his staff. "I do not know what to do. I have no livelihood option left," Kotiyal said.
When the cloudburst struck Uttarakhand on the evening of June 16, there were 15,000 pilgrims in Badrinath. It was peak season for the Char Dham yatra and the peak earning season for pandas like Durga Prasad. His income for a year comes between May and November, that is before the temple shuts for the winters. But the flash floods have washed away all of it. "Economy of entire Uttarakhand is dependent on the Chardham yatra," Durga Prasad said.
The Char Dham yatra is the only big industry in Uttarakhand. Almost 25 lakh pilgrims visit Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamunotri and Gangotri every year, generating Rs 14,000 crore for the government annually. It also directly and indirectly employs thousands in the state.
The government now plans to suspend the yatra for 2 years as it feels that is not feasible. "The Char Dhams generate 37 per cent revenue for the state, faith will bring people back, once the road comes, pilgrims will start coming in. The Char Dham yatra should not be suspended for 2 years and should resume as soon as possible," Badrinath-Kedarnath temple committee chief BD Singh said.