Dehradun: Serpentine queues of vehicles on national highways leading to Kedarnath, Badrinath, Nainital, Mussoorie and many other hill stations have literally thrown life out of gear in Uttarakhand.
With temperatures soaring in the plains, people are rushing to the hills for respite and this sudden surge has led to a chaotic situation.
The Char Dhams – Yamunotri, Gangotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath — attract a large number of visitors. This year so far, more than 17 lakh pilgrims have visited the spots. This rush has led to several problems, including non-availability of cash and fuel that top the list of tourists' complaints. Many of them also grumbled about the lack of proper accommodation or, when available, of its exorbitant price.
“We travelled 45 km from Badrinath to Joshimath in nine hours. There is hardly any fuel available at petrol pumps and no rooms available for stay. Never come here in June. Restaurants are also running out of food and turning people away,” Vikash Malik from Ghaziabad wrote on Facebook.
Aman Kaushal, a pilgrim, said rooms along Char Dham routes were available, but were charging as much as Rs 6,000 for a night, while only bedding was being offered for no less than Rs 1,000.
Rudraprayag District Magistrate Mangesh Ghildiyal, donning a kurta pyjama and covering his face with a mask, travelled as a pilgrim for a few kilometers to cross-check complaints.
Rudraprayag DM Mangesh Ghildiyal walks among pilgrims.
“Yes, there are some issues as far as public facilities are concerned. We are looking into it,” Ghildiyal said.
The situation is no better in Nainital and Mussoorie — the two popular hill stations.
In Nainital, traffic moved at snail's pace and long traffic jams were witnessed. Despite a high court order to the district authorities on the matter, the traffic situation has failed to improve this year.
Besides tourists from Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR), people from nearby Bareilly, Moradabad and Rampur in Uttar Pradesh also thronged the hill stations.
“The crowd is unmanageable and to add to the woes, locals are suffering as essential items like vegetables are being sold at higher rates,” said Rajshree, a Nainital resident.
Mussoorie also witnessed a messy situation as traffic was halted for hours and many tourists were forced to spend nights in vehicles due to lack of accommodation facilities.
Tourism Minister Satpal Maharaj told News18 the condition had worsened as tourists and pilgrims had arrived in larger numbers this year. While Transport Minister Yashpal Arya also echoed Maharaj's thoughts, neither could elaborate on a plan to manage the situation.
Earlier this week, Chief Secretary UK Singh had instructed district magistrates to deploy additional forces to manage the crowd and ensure availability of enough cash, water and fuel.
However, the situation has not improved and with the mercury on the rise, it’s hard days ahead for Uttarakhand and its residents.