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Kedarnath visit: Will President be third time lucky?

dehradun Updated: Sep 23, 2016 20:23 IST
Neha Pant
Pranab Mukherjee

President Pranab Mukherjee at Gauchar helipad in Chamoli district in June after his chopper failed to land at Kedarnath due to bad weather.(HT file photo)

President Pranab Mukherjee will make a third attempt to pay obeisance at the Himalayan shrine of Kedarnath during his three-day visit to Uttarakhand beginning September 27, after failing on two earlier occasions.

His two attempts, in the last two years, to visit the famed Lord Shiva shrine located at over 3,500 metres above sea level have failed due to bad weather in the upper reaches of the hill state.

Officials are keeping a close eye on weather this time and making alternative arrangements for his visit in case inclement weather strikes Kedarnath. The President will reach Dehradun on September 27 and he is scheduled to visit the shrine on September 28.

In its ‘Special Forecast for Char Dham’ issued on Friday noon, the Met department has predicted that “very light to light rainfall/thundershowers (are) likely to occur at one or two places” at Kedarnath on September 28. As per the India Meteorological Department (IMD) norms, the probability of occurrence for a “likely” forecast is 26% to 50%.

“Mainly clear to partly cloudy sky is expected to prevail in the state during the President’s visit. There is a possibility of light rainfall activity occurring at isolated places, though the weather should remain fine for his Kedarnath trip,” Bikram Singh, director of Dehradun Meteorological Centre, told HT.

The Rudraprayag district administration has made alternative arrangements for the President’s stay at the mountain shrine if the weather turns too hostile to fly.

“There is a remote possibility of weather deteriorating on the day of his visit. We have made arrangements for the President’s stay at Kedarnath in case a contingency arises,” Rudraprayag district magistrate Raghav Langer told HT.

Earlier this year, the President’s chopper had failed to land at Kedarnath due to bad weather in June. His plan to visit Kedarnath in April last year had to be cancelled because of continued snowfall at the shrine.

Kedarnath is located in the western extremity of the Central Himalayas in the Mandakini River Valley, which was at epicentre of the June 2013 disaster that left over 5000 dead in Uttarakhand.

According to the state authorities, after the chopper’s landing at Kedarnath, three all-terrain vehicles will transport the President along with his family from the helipad to the shrine. Two choppers of the civil aviation department will remain on standby at Guptkashi while contingency plans have been put in place at Gauchar, both nearby towns that have helipads.