Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat today said his focus on conducting the annual pilgrimages to the high-altitude shrines located in the state was meant to revive tourism which received a setback after last year's calamity.
"As last year's calamity dealt a severe blow to the confidence of people wanting to visit its famous temples, I made it my priority to restore their confidence about their safety and focused on the safe conduct of the Char Dham and Nandadevi Raj Jat yatras," Rawat said at a press coneference here soon after the formal start of the Nandadevi Raj Jat yatra from Nauti village in the hill district of Chamoli.
The Chief Minister said he wanted to give the impression to the outside world that Uttarakhand is as normal and safe a hill state as any other in the country and they had nothing to fear. "I did not want them to harbour an illusion that Uttarakhand had become inaccessible after the calamity. Timely start of the char dham and Nandadevi Raj Jat yatras was necessary to restore their confidence," he said.
Areas close to the Himalayan shrines especially Kedarnath bore the brunt of last year's catastrophic deluge, hitting hard the tourism sector which is the mainstay of the state's economy. Rawat said all care has been taken for the safety, sanitation and health of pilgrims participating in the Raj Jat yatra. Communication facilities have been put up along the way and special arrangements have been made for pilgrims for their safe passage through muddy and slippery tracks.
He said though small disruptions can't be ruled out enough arrangements have been made to prevent suspension of the Nandadevi Raj Jat yatra. Asked about what transpired at his meeting with the Union Home Minister yesterday, Rawat said Rajnath Singh wanted to know if an alternative route to the char dhams can be built and the yatra made hassle-free through tunneling.
"I told the Home Minister that tunneling is difficult in the hills of Uttarakhand which are younger than those of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. "It is doubtful whether our hills can bear the pressure of tunnels being constructed through them but we are exploring alternative routes to our famous shrines," Rawat said.