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HindustanTimes Fri,26 Dec 2014

Chaar dham yatra: Govt extra cautious

HT Correspondent  Dehradun, March 11, 2014
First Published: 15:31 IST(11/3/2014) | Last Updated: 15:38 IST(11/3/2014)

Dehradun: The government on Monday formally announced the dates for starting Chaar Dham pilgrimage season with opening the portals of Gangotri temple on May 2. This will be followed by opening the portals of Kedarnath shrine on May 4 and Badrinath shrine on Mar 5.

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The Uttarakhand government is not very hopeful of getting a good response during its Chaar Dham pilgrimage this year. Reason: Fear among the public because of the disaster last year. This was hinted at by the tourism department officials at a press conference in Dehradun.

Explaining the pilgrimage plan, tourism secretary Umakant Panwar said that the department had been conducting publicity drives across the country to woo tourists. However, he said this year the scene may not be as good as in the past.

“It will take time to restore the faith of the pilgrims. We have conducted a series of meetings with tour operators across the country to dispel fear from the mind of the public but it takes time to restore the confidence,” said Panwar.

“The government is not leaving any stone unturned to create conducive environment for the smooth flow of tourists,” Panwar said adding that government will make proper arrangements for the safety of tourists this season.

Panwar said reconstruction work of tourist routes would be completed by March 30 and that all district magistrates have been asked to start making arrangements for the pilgrims.    
Panwar further informed that a control room will be set up in Dehradun to regulate the flow of pilgrims. Officers from different departments will be pressed into service at the control room to keep track of the activities pertaining to their departments like PWD, health department, water resources, disaster management and others.

In addition to this the government has decided to set up a joint task force of state police and national institute of mountaineering for catering to the safety needs of pilgrims on new pedestrian route between Bhimbali and Kedarnath shrine.


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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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