Rafts — red, blue, fluorescent green and orange — bob up and down the Ganga like a moving rainbow holding out promise to the people of Rishikesh who feared till recently that the June 16 flashfloods had shattered their financial backbone —white water rafting.
White water rafting is an adventure sport taking its name from the fact that it is usually practised on white or rough water. And the Ganga at Rishikesh, with its smattering of whirlpools and rapids, is considered one of the best rivers in the world for this activity. From September to June it draws a large number of tourists and earns the state Rs. 35-40 crore.
However, the Uttarakhand tourist department’s green signal notwithstanding, the refusal of the forest department to allow rafters to camp on the river banks, combined with the perception that the area is still not safe, has dampened much of the enthusiasm.
Indian association of professional rafting operators president Kiran Todaria admits advance bookings from guests are pouring in, but adds that it is not the same as in “previous years”. Dinesh Kaithait, who owns a rafting company, seconds the view. “Usually on the opening day of rafting season we get 600 to 700 tourists. This time about 100 came.”
But not everyone is nitpicking. Lal Singh Negi, who owns a roadside eatery in Kaudiyala, Rishikesh, can’t remember the last time he smiled like this. “Business ab phir se shuru ho jayega (Business will start again).