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HindustanTimes Thu,25 Dec 2014

A year after floods, devotees skip Kedarnath yatra

Abhinav Madhwal  RUDRAPRAYAG, May 08, 2014
First Published: 23:27 IST(8/5/2014) | Last Updated: 23:30 IST(8/5/2014)

Nearly a year after flashfloods devastated large parts of Uttarakhand, long shadows of the natural disaster have clouded the annual pilgrimage to the Kedarnath shrine.

Though the pilgrimage to Kedarnath – part of the ‘char dham’ yatra – started on May 4, hoteliers and shop-keepers are still awaiting the devotees to the holy shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva.

The shrine of Kedarnath and its adjoining areas were the worst affected in the June 16 floods which had left over 5,000 dead. Thousands of bodies were never found.

The floods had also damaged many strategic roads and most of them are yet to be repaired.

Kedarnath is 301 km from capital Dehradun but the last 20km to the shrine, from Sonprayag, has to be made on foot.

Local residents said that after the disaster last year, pilgrims are afraid to visit the state. Devotees from all over the country used to visit the shrine each year.

Vinod Semwal, who runs a hotel at Masta near Guptkashi – which falls on the route to shrine -- said that businessmen were having nightmare about the situation.

The entire economy of the region is dependent on the yatra and this time there is little movement of pilgrims, he said. He is, however, hopeful that the yatra would pick up after 20 May as has been the trend in the past.

Rameshwar Prasad, another hotelier at Korkhi, said till now “sales has been zero”.

“The entrance to the hotel is still closed and this shows that there is nil occupancy here. I am sitting here in the hope that someone comes soon,” he added.


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‘Central aid to state rose in past 3 yrs, but growth slow’

The annual assistance from the Centre to the state has increased in last few financial years, according to official statistics, even though the Uttarakhand government has been firing salvos at the central government over it.
 
Two days ago, the state Congress unit demanded `4,000 crore financial assistance from the centre.
According to the central statistics office figures, the Centre released `4883.74 crores for the state in 2011-12. It released `4717.68 crores in 2012-2013. And in 2013-2014, it increased the assistance to `5418.60 crores.

Uttarakhand is one of the 11 Himalayan states which enjoy special category status besides Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim.
 
These special category states have to make part payment to the centre in lieu of getting funds for centrally-sponsored schemes.
Interestingly, on an average, central assistance has been substantial for the state though it has not helped Uttarakhand in increasing its Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) which is total monetary value of goods and services produced by a state economy in a given year.
“GSDP depends on various factors like rate of savings and investments and overall business atmosphere. But that doesn’t mean the state does not need help,” said Surender Kumar, media in-charge for CM adding that the state needs more funds.
 
The figures for Uttarakhand GSDP growth at constant (2004-5) price (as on 01-08-2014) was 9.36% in 2011-12. It was 5.61% in 2012-13 and 5.65% in 2013-2014.
 
Sometime back Planning Commission constituted a committee to study development in hill states arising from management of forest land with special focus on creation of infrastructure, livelihood and human development.
 
The report of the committee was discussed in Internal Planning Committee meeting held in February this year.
A Planning Commission note claimed that IPC broadly endorsed the recommendations of the committee. The report has also been forwarded to states for further inputs.

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