When Prime Minister Narendra Modi comes to Kedarnath and Badrinath for two days starting October 21, he would be joining a record number of over 41 lakh pilgrims who have visited the Char Dhams this year, breaking all previous records.
The earlier record was in the year 2019 when about 35 lakh pilgrims visited the four holy shrines known as the Char Dhams — Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri. The last two years saw pilgrim numbers dipping in a big way due to Covid-19 restrictions but this year, over 41 lakh pilgrims have visited the Char Dhams which will be closing later this month for winter.
News18 has learnt that around 15 lakh pilgrims have visited Badrinath so far this year, over 14 lakh have been to Kedarnath, more than six lakh pilgrims visited Gangotri and over five lakh went to Yamunotri.
There has also been a high increase in pilgrims visiting the re-built Samadhi of Adi Guru Shankaracharya, which was inaugurated by the prime minister last year at Kedarnath, along with a 12-foot statue of the seer.
PM Modi, during his visit to Kedarnath on Friday, will visit the Samadhi and lay the foundation stone of a ropeway project to Kedarnath. He will also inspect the new Mandakini Aastha Path and Saraswati Aastha Path built at Kedarnath for the convenience of pilgrims to regulate their flow and will interact with the ‘shramjeevis’ who built these projects.
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami on Thursday said all development works at Kedarnath and Badrinath will be completed by the end of 2023. The all-weather, 889-km-long Char Dham road to link all four shrines is also expected to be completed soon at the cost of Rs 12,000 crore.
PM Modi, during his visit, will stay the night in Badrinath for the first time. He will hold a public meeting in Mana village, which is the last border village on the India-China border, and review the border village development programme. He will also review the ongoing Badrinath Master Plan.
The ropeway in Kedarnath will be around 9.7 kilometres long and will connect Gaurikund to Kedarnath, reducing the travel time between the two places from 6-7 hours at present to only about 30 minutes. The Hemkund ropeway will connect Govindghat to Hemkund Sahib. It will be around 12.4 kilometre long and will reduce the travel time from more than a day to only about 45 minutes. This ropeway will also connect Ghangaria, which is the gateway to Valley of Flowers National Park.
The ropeways, which will be developed at a cumulative cost of around Rs 2,430 crore, are an environment-friendly, safe and stable mode of transport. This major infrastructure development will give a boost to religious tourism, which will give a fillip to the economic development in the region and lead to creation of multiple employment opportunities as well.
The foundation stone of road-widening projects worth around Rs 1,000 crore will also be laid during the PM’s visit. The two road-widening projects — from Mana to Mana Pass (NH07) and from Joshimath to Malari (NH107B) — shall be another step towards providing last-mile, all-weather road connectivity to border areas. Apart from boosting connectivity, these projects will also prove beneficial from a strategic point of view.