Hundreds of hotels and lodges in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand have sought ‘support’ from the state government after CM Tirath Singh Rawat announced the suspension of Char Dham Yatra for pilgrims owing to the situation arising from the Covid pandemic. The government, however, said the decision for suspension of pilgrimage shall be ‘reviewed’ if the condition improves in the coming months.
Among the four revered shrines, the portals of Yamnotri will open on May 14th followed by Gangotri on May 15th. The portals of the Kedarnath shrine will be opened on May 17th and Badrinath on May 18th.
Hundreds of hoteliers and lodge owners right from Rishikesh till Badrinath are dependent on the annual Char Dham Yatra conducted for six months a year. With the suspension of pilgrimage, the stakeholders are in a tizzy.
Rajesh Mehta, a hotelier from Badrinath and President, Char Dham Hotel Association has a hotel at Badrinath shrine town with a 100-bed occupancy and employees some 25-30 locals.
“May and June is the peak season when we do 75% of the total business. Pilgrims are the only source of income generation for us” Mehta told News18. The hotelier said since April first week almost 60% of the bulk booking have been canceled from states like southern states Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, and Maharastra.
“How will the small businesses survive? Many have availed loans from the banks to expand the business. We humbly request the government to waive water and power bills and also ask banks to suspend installments for another one year” said Mehta.
Ashish Chauhan, managing director, government-run Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN) said they have 11 thousand advance bookings for helicopter service to Kedarnath. The official said GMVN will provide an option to pilgrims either to get money back or adjust in future pilgrimage.
Meanwhile, the priests in Yamnotri opposed the move to suspend pilgrimage. Suresh Semwal, President, Yamnotri Temple Committee questioned when Kumbh could be organized with Covid protocols then why not Char Dham for visitors?
The Char Dham Yatra was majorly hit after the 2013 Kedarnath disaster. Less number of tourists headed to Uttarakhand in the following years. The Covid again derailed the pilgrimage first in 2020 and now in 2021, rued Arvind Shukla, a priest.