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Protests erupt in Uttarkashi over 'crowd mismanagement' during Chardham Yatra

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NewsDrum Desk
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Dehradun, May 15 (PTI) Hoteliers and traders staged protests in Uttarkashi in Uttarakhand on Wednesday against alleged mismanagement of the Chardham yatra.

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They took out a procession along the highway in the Paligad area of the district under the banner of Yamuna Ghati Mahasangh and raised slogans against the state government for alleged chaos prevailing along the Yatra route and causing inconvenience to the pilgrims.  "Pilgrims are being made to wait inside their vehicles for 10-12 hours on an average at various points along the route to Yamunotri. After the long wait, they are being told not to proceed further due to traffic jams on the route. This is disturbing the schedule of their journey and many pilgrims are returning without darshan in Yamunotri, " Yamuna Ghati Hotel Association president Soban Singh Rana said.

He said that the Chief Minister should take immediate action to streamline the arrangements to ensure a smooth yatra for the pilgrims.

The number of pilgrims visiting Yamunotri and Gangotri this time has broken the previous year's records within less than a week since the beginning of the Chardham yatra on May 10.   A record 15,630 pilgrims visited Yamunotri on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Gangotri also received a record 18,973 pilgrims on May 11, as per the official data.

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With an unprecedented number of pilgrims visiting Chardham this year, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami had asked his secretary R Meenakshi Sundaram, a senior IAS officer to camp in Uttarkashi and monitor the management of the yatra to Gangotri and Yamunotri.

The Chief Minister himself is also maintaining a constant vigil, an official said.

Chief Secretary Radha Raturi issued instructions on Wednesday to immediately stop the movement of unregistered buses and vehicles on the Chardham Yatra route and send them back.

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She also directed the Transport Department to hold a meeting with tour operators on the issue of vehicles without registration or trip cards.   A letter is also being sent to the Chief Secretaries and Director Generals of Police of other states in this regard, she said.

She said health screening of pilgrims over 50 years of age should be done mandatorily. This comes as five pilgrims died at the Dhams due to cardiac arrest.   The Chief Secretary has also ordered strict action against people spreading false propaganda about the Chardham Yatra and making fake news or videos on the Yatra.  She issued instructions to the officials concerned to remain vigilant.

Drinking water, food and toilets should be made available to devotees along the route, Raturi said.  A member of Chardham Mahapanchayat, Brijesh Sati said that the increased footfall not only consists of the devotees but also the YouTubers, vloggers and reel makers for whom praying at the temples is secondary.

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"Their main purpose is to have fun and shoot an interesting video with the Himalayan temples in the background and upload them on social media rather than having a darshan", he said.

With the number of devotees to Yamunotri crossing its carrying capacity last week, the authorities had to appeal to pilgrims bound for the Himalayan temple to put off their journey for a day on Sunday.

"Every possible effort is being made to conduct a smooth and safe yatra. The Chief Minister has said every devotee must have darshan at the temples. We have to maintain a balance so that the journey of the devotees is safe," Garhwal Commissioner Vinay Shankar Pandey told reporters.

Till May 14, a total of 26,73,519 online registrations were made for Chardham, he said. Apart from this, a total of 1,42,641 registrations were made offline in Haridwar and Rishikesh from May 8 to 14.  "It is good that such a large number of devotees are coming. However, it also brings certain challenges which are being dealt with. A five-kilometre stretch of the road to Yamunotri is very narrow and only a limited number of people can go there at a time," he said.  Drawing a comparison between this year's and last year's figures, he said when the doors of Yamunotri were opened last year, a total of 6,838 devotees came whereas this year, 12,193 pilgrims came on the day of opening of its doors.        Similarly, when the doors of Kedarnath Dham opened last year, 18,335 devotees were present and this year around 29 thousand devotees were present.  Safety of the devotees is the top priority of the state government, keeping the safety of the pilgrims in mind, they are being accommodated at safe places, Pandey said. PTI ALM HIG HIG

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