‘Reconstruction on in full swing, addressing needs of pilgrims’ | India News

With the Kedarnath yatra going strong after the opening of the temple in late April, TOI’s Pankaj Doval spoke to Uttarakhand CM Pushkar Singh Dhami on the state government’s plans to make the journey easier and more comfortable for pilgrims. Excerpts:
Ten years have passed since the devastating flash floods. How challenging has it been for the state government to rebuild Kedarnath and create sufficient transport and lodging facilities for pilgrims?
■ It’s true that the reconstruction of Kedarnath has been a big challenge. Because of PM Narendra Modi’s deep faith in Baba Kedarnath and his special attachment to Uttarakhand, we have received immense support from the Centre. With assistance from the Centre, reconstruction work is going on at Kedarnath Dham at a cost of Rs 750 crore. Work on the Gaurikund-Kedarnath ropeway is also on. The state administration has provided all kinds of facilities to the pilgrims, which is among the reasons behind the record number of people visiting this year.
When TOI visited Kedarnath, the town appeared unable to handle the massive influx of pilgrims. Lodging facilities for pilgrims are limited, and there are tents on the banks of Mandakini river.
■ The reconstruction work of Kedarnath is progressing in the right direction. Soon, Kedarnath will be ready for pilgrims in its grand and divine form with all the facilities. At present, the administration is doing its work with promptness and all the necessary facilities are being provided to passengers. Efficient management and best arrangements have been made for the pilgrims. The administration is working with full vigilance to solve their problems.
The debris of buildings and many other dwellings in Kedarnath that were impacted by the 2013 flash floods are still scattered in the area. Many bylanes are in a poor condition. When does that get cleared and how do you create new, clean dwellings?
■ As I said earlier, the reconstruction work of Kedarnath Dham is happening on a war footing. The problems being highlighted will end automatically after the completion of reconstruction work. Kedarnath Dham will have all the facilities and clean accommodation.
The new yatra route is long and takes around 8-12 hours to cover on foot. Are you planning to create alternative routes that are easier to trek, especially for the elderly?
■ We are well aware of the challenges faced by the pilgrims on the yatra route. The foundation stone of the Gaurikund-Kedarnath ropeway project has been laid. Soon, pilgrims will have access to the ropeway service to Kedarnath Dham. For a successful Char Dham yatra, several meetings were held at the secretariat level months ago. The district administration is addressing the problems arising at the local level on the spot. The operation of the Char Dham yatra is also being monitored at the level of the chief secretary.
Pilgrims are complaining about excess fees charged by pony services and palki providers. Also, there are issues around access to clean toilets and hot water. How are you planning to manage this?
There is strict vigilance by the district administration on the yatra route. Pony services and palki providers are charging fixed fees. The district administration has made complete arrangements for the cleaning of toilets and their maintenance. Hot water has been arranged at various places.
Helicopter services to Kedarnath from Guptkashi, Phata and other areas are being operated without much accountability. Services can get delayed by hours and pilgrims are not given any information. Also, there is no apparent security check for baggage, and operators are not responding to customer complaints. How are you tackling this?
■ Strict monitoring has been maintained by authorities to ensure all the safety standards are followed by helicopter service companies. Information centres have been set up at various places for the convenience of passengers. The district administration has appointed nodal officers for this and they are solving the problems of pilgrims on the spot.

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