The rising cases of COVID-19 in Uttarakhand have begun to cast its shadow on the Chardham Yatra with no buses booked yet by devotees to travel to the famed Himalayan temples. The Chardham Yatra begins next month with the opening of Yamunotri temple on May 14. “Advance booking of at least 500 buses for the Yatra by this time of the year was normal, but not a single bus has been booked yet raising concern among people associated with the tourism industry…,” Sudhir Roy, president of the Yatra management committee that runs the pilgrimage, told news agency Press Trust of India.
Describing the scenario as “extremely disappointing” for bus operators who run their vehicles along the Yatra route, Mr Roy said they should be allowed to operate at their full seating capacity rather than with 50 per cent seats as a compensatory measure.
“When the SOPs for the Yatra are issued, the dismal scenario of the tourism industry should be kept in mind and we should be allowed to run our buses on the Chardham Yatra route at their full capacity to minimise the trouble of people in the industry,” Mr Roy said. However, he said the SOPs can make it mandatory for the pilgrims to bring their negative RT-PCR reports, not older than 72 hours, with them.
If the Yatris are COVID-19 negative, social distancing norms inside the buses will not be a must, he said. Mr Roy has been connected for decades in key roles with the body that manages the Yatra.
Considering the fact that livelihoods of millions of people depend on the Chardham Yatra, the backbone of Uttarakhand’s economy, bus operators deserve to be given this concession, Mr Roy said. There has been no inquiry yet either from across the country or abroad about the Chardham Yatra.
Uttarakhand on Wednesday recorded its highest single-day surge in COVID-19 cases since the outbreak of the pandemic with 4,807 people testing positive. The annual pilgrimage had been hit hard by the pandemic last year as well with the full-fledged opening of the temples for devotees delayed by several months.
The Yatra to the high-altitude Sikh shrine of Hemkund Sahib that begins on May 10 also faces a similar situation this time. The enquiries for Hemkund Sahib Yatra has been too low this year, Hemkund Gurudwara management committee vice-president Narinderjit Singh Bindra said.