The Uttarakhand government has recommended pilgrims visiting the Char Dham – located at high altitude Himalayan region - to get medical tests done at their native places to ensure that they are fit for trekking to the holy shrines.
The health department has overturned its last year’s order that made it mandatory for pilgrims above 50 years of age to undergo health check-up at various centres before setting off for high altitude treks to Kedarnath and Yamunotri.
The department has done away with the compulsory screening in view of heavy rush of pilgrims and shortage of doctors, an official said.
Last year, over 14 lakh pilgrims visited the Char Dham - Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri - pilgrimage circuit in Uttarakhand.
“It was practically impossible to screen each and every pilgrim amid such heavy rush. So, this time we are asking them to get themselves medically checked from their native places itself,” Dr Tripti Bahuguna, the additional director of the health department, told HT on Monday.
“We have set up medical centres en-route Yamunotri and Kedarnath shrines and those who wish to get themselves checked can do so there,” said Bahuguna, who is looking after health related issues on Char Dham routes.
The Char Dham Yatra began with opening of portals of Gangotri and Yamunotri shrines on April 28, while portals of Kedarnath and Badrinath shrines will be thrown open to pilgrims on May 3 and 6, respectively.
The department is also distributing pamphlets carrying ‘Dos and Don’ts’ regarding medical precautions to be followed by pilgrims while trekking to high-altitude shrines, at various barriers set up en route the Char Dham shrines.
The department has deployed over 105 doctors, including 45 specialists, on the pilgrimage route on a monthly rotation basis.
Also, 11 medical relief posts or temporary health centres have been set up on the 16-km-long Kedarnath trek route to take care of the pilgrims’ healthcare needs, Bahuguna said.
Experts, however, feel the new system may put the safety of pilgrims to risk.
“Char Dham Yatra attracts pilgrims from all over the country. Not many pilgrims may be aware of the health risks involved before setting off for the Yatra,” said Raghu Nautiyal, an activist based in Rudraprayag.
“The government should make it compulsory for pilgrims to carry fitness certificates from their native places and widely publicize this requirement beforehand.”