DEHRADUN, INDIA, April 9, 2014 (Times Of India): Only eight pilgrims have registered for road travel towards Kedarnath this year. Nearly 1.3 million had visited Kedarnath and Badrinath last year, during the Char Dham Yatra (pilgrimage to four holy sites). Rattled by last year's devastation in which floods killed 6,000 and stranded 100,000, only 77 devotees have opted for the chopper service for Kedarnath this year. With the Char Dham Yatra, the backbone of Uttarakhand's economy, scheduled to kick off in the first week of May, it is clear that the state is set to lose millions of dollars in revenue.
The Char Dham Yatra used to have over 20 million visitors through the pilgrimage season. It fueled the economy of Uttarakhand, triggering money circulation in the form of taxi rides, hotel bookings, chopper rides and road taxes. This year, the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN) has only 294 bookings, including 77 for Kedarnath, for the Yatra.
Stunned by the low head-count, the state government has held meetings with over 250 tour operators based in Ahmedabad and Mumbai. "In the meetings we are telling the private tour operators about arrangements made by the state government in all the four shrines. This includes the medical facilities, helipads, emergency services, communications and transport," said a senior Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board official.