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Mule operators demandhike in Kedarnath fares

Mule operators in Kedarnath demanded that the government hike their rates, saying helicopter fares have been revised, but theirs have remained the same in the last five years

dehradun Updated: May 13, 2017 20:57 IST
Prithviraj Singh
Uttarakhand
Mule operators carry pilgrims from Sonprayag to the Kedarnath shrine, traversing one of the most steep terrains of the Himalayas. (Vinay Santosh Kumar/HT Photo)

Mule operators in Kedarnath demanded that the government hike their rates, saying helicopter fares have been revised, but theirs have remained the same in the last five years.

Mule operators carry pilgrims from Sonprayag to the Kedarnath shrine, traversing one of the most steep terrains of the Himalayas. The pedestrian track for the shrine starts from Sonprayag.

Pony owners claimed that the district administration ignored their demand for revising their rates from the present ₹1700 per trip to ₹2500.

“Mule fare from Sonprayag to Kedarnath has been the same for the past more than five years, but the state government revised helicopter fares. This despite several reminders to the district administration,” said Avatar Singh Negi, president of the Sonprayag mule operators’ union.

“Today the minimum cost of a mule trip from Sonprayag to Kedarnath shrine comes to around ₹1900, but we can charge only ₹1200. This has forced many mule owners to not take up the service, resulting in clashes between us and the local police.”

More than 5000 people are engaged in mule service to earn their livelihood. “The government’s adamant attitude on raising mule fares has put a question mark on their livelihood,” Negi said.

Mule operators are forced to stop work as the cost of ferrying mules is now higher than the fare they are allowed to charge, he said.

“The government claims that it wants to strengthen the means of economy of the locals, but is not willing to give a minimum raise in mule fares,” said Kedarnath MLA Manoj Rawat.

More than 3500 registered mules carry around half of the 7000 pilgrims who visit Kedarnath every day after the shrine portals opened on May 3. The trekking distance between Sonprayag and Kedarnath is 44 kilometres.

“More than half of the pilgrims visiting the Kedarnath shrine every day come on mules, but mule operators are forced to work under loss. If the situation continues, it may become chaotic,” said the MLA.

“The state government needs to take remedial measures urgently to address the plight of mule operators.”