The 44-km road from Joshimath to Badrinath in Uttarakhand was a nightmare for Arjun Thakur and his family who came all the way from Sitamari in Bihar to pray at the Himalayan shrine.
The road, damaged in the 2013 flashflood, is in a bad shape with stretches still strewn with debris and rocks.
“One is filled with divine feeling after visiting Badrinathji but the road leading to the shrine is really horrible,” says Thakur, a frequent visitor to Uttarakhand.
“The scars of the 2013 disaster are spread everywhere in the valley.”
It takes more than two hours to travel to the holy shrine, which tens of thousands of pilgrims visit every year. On the way lies Govindghat, an important destination for the Sikh pilgrims — Hemkund Sahib.
Just ahead of Govindghat lies Vishnu Prayag power project that was swept away in the gushing waters of Alaknanda River that flows down from Badrinath.
More than 5,000 pilgrims were killed in the June 2013 disaster at Kedarnath valley. In contrast, the Badrinath valley was lucky as the shrine was not damaged in the flood and no human loss was reported.
However, the flood caused massive destruction of infrastructure in the Badrinath valley. Poor post-disaster management gave bad publicity to the state government which had focused its machinery in restoring Kedarnath. Badrinath valley apparently did not get due attention, says Durga Dhyani, a priest at the shrine.
“We have repeatedly raised the issue of bad roads with state government officials, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and politicians but nothing has happened,” says Dhyani, whose family has been catering to pilgrims — whom they call yajman — for ages.
The Badrinath National Highway, which goes up to the India-China border, is maintained by the BRO.
A BRO official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as he was not permitted to speak to the media, told Hindustan Times that the organisation faces fund crunch at times and the “harsh weather conditions further makes the working in the rugged terrain difficult”.
However, the business community at the shrine is not convinced.
“The Kedarnath shrine and valley has been entirely transformed. Why it could not be replicated in Badrinath valley? ” says Vinod Nawani, president of Badrinath Traders Association.
The state government has not set any timeline for restoring infrastructure, mainly roads in Badrinath valley.
“We are in constant touch with the BRO top brass and our officials are also coordinating with them for the fast completion of the pending works,” says Surender Kumar, official spokesperson for chief minister Harish Rawat.
Badrinath is one of the four shrines of Uttarakhand besides Kedarnath, Yamnotri and Gangotri. The portals of the shrine will be closed for visitors for the next six months from November 17.