Promotion of internal tourism in Uttarakhand would be made an integral part of the tourism policy, said chief minister Harish Rawat while flagging off 'Maire bujurg, maire teerth', an officially sponsored pilgrimage for a group of local senior citizens to Badrinath here on Thursday.
"The objective of the yatra dedicated to senior citizens is to send out a message that the state is a safe destination after it was ravaged by the floods last year," the CM said before he flagged off a Badrinath-bound bus having 26 senior citizens on board.
According to him, about 3000 senior citizens from all the 13 districts in the state will visit Badrinath this year. "Under a similar initiative to be organised by us next year about 30,000 senior citizens from across the state will be visiting all the four shrines (Chardhams) of the state's fabled religious circuit," he said. "We will turn this yatra for the senior citizens into a kind of movement, which would give a boost to internal tourism while giving a much needed impetus to the state's economy", the CM noted even as he inaugurated nine new branches of the Canara bank to be set up on the Chardham yatra route.
"The religious journey that began today flies in the face of the speculation that Uttarakhand is an unsafe destination. The yatra shows that the Himalayan state is safer than before it was ravaged by the last year's devastating floods," the CM said about 'Mere bujurg, mere teerth', an initiative under which senior citizens from across the state would be visiting the Chardhams (Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamnotri) from next year.
Additional secretary, tourism Shailesh Bagauli, while speaking on the occasion, said during the inaugural pilgrimage to Badrinath a batch of 26 senior citizens each were flagged off from Dehradun and nearby Haridwar.
"In all, as many as 200 senior citizens from all the 13 districts will be visiting Badrinath this year," he said. "That means a total of 2,600 senior citizens from the state would undertake a pilgrimage to the fabled shrine (Badrinath) during that period," Bagauli told HT on the sidelines of the inaugural function.
Congratulating the senior citizens at the inaugural function, the CM said he would try to ensure that the Chardham yatra became easier for elderly women in future. "The initiative will also help motivate the officials to attract more tourists to the state by projecting the unique scenic beauty it is endowed with," he said.
The CM said the ('maire bujurg, maire teerth') initiative would help strengthen the state economy because senior citizens wouldn't just visit the Chardhams and come back. "Even if their religious journey is being sponsored by the state government, senior citizens will spend some money in purchasing things like mementos and other articles for their family members back home," he said adding, spending money on things like these would help strengthen the state's economy. "We are, therefore, committed to providing mobile banking facility on the (mountainous) Chardham yatra route," the CM said. He also assured the Canara bank officials present on the occasion that all facilities would be provided to its branches to be opened soon on the yatra route.
The other important objective of the initiative was to remind the society about the old values that taught the people to respect senior citizens. "Those values are now dying out fast. The initiative (maire bujurg, maire teerth) would help revive those old values. It will also inspire the people to treat senior citizens with the respect they deserve," the CM said.
Additional secretary Bagauli said all arrangements-from travel and board to food-- would be made for the senior citizens participating in the yatra by the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN) and Kumaon Mandal Vikash Nigam (KMVN), the twin regional development corporations. "The KMVN will make all arrangements for the senior citizens coming from Kumaon to participate in the pilgrimage to Badrinath," said the official. "Similarly, all such arrangements for the senior citizens coming from Garhwal side would be made by the GMVN," he told HT.