Holding that arrangements for the Kedarnath yatra are not adequate yet, the temple's chief priest Bhimashankar Ling on Sunday advised devotees planning to visit the Himalayan shrine to put their plans on hold for at least a week as it could be "risky".
Citing the poor condition of the road leading to the shrine, the chief priest (Rawal) said undertaking the arduous journey could be "risky" at present but hoped things will soon be okay as the snow melts and work on Linchauli to Kedarnatrh pedestrian route paces up.
"The slopes on Linchauli to Kedarnath route are too steep which can cause problems to the old. Snow is still there in the area. The soil is wet. It will take at least 7-8 days more for the road leading to the shrine to be complete.
"So I would advise pilgrims not to undertake the journey to Kedarnath for at least a week," the chief priest told PTI from Ukhimath on phone.
Though the state government is working overtime to repair and construct the roads everything is not quite in place as of now, he said.
There are no mule operators to be found in the area this year as in the past.
Only facilities made available by the state government are there. So devotees, young and old alike, have to walk to the temple. What is adding to their woes is rains on short intervals in the area which have kept the soil wet.
"People walk gingerly on the roads fearing the earth under their feet might slide," the Rawal said.
However, expressing satisfaction over the pace at which road construction work is being carried out by different agencies, Ling said by prioritising the chardham yatra, Chief Minister Harish Rawat had done a great job.
"Harish Rawat has done a wonderful job. There is no dearth of food supplies or places to rest for devotees.The only problem is the condition of roads," he said.
However, he said he was optimistic that in a week's time things will be fine and more and more devotees will throng the famous shrine whose adjoining areas bore the brunt of the massive devastation caused by last year's deluge.
Noting that the number of devotees visiting the shrine this year has plummeted sharply, the chief priest attributed it partially to the fear psychosis gripping people outside the state and also to the ongoing Lok Sabha polls.
"People outside the state have still not been able to put behind memories of last year's calamity. I think macabre images of last year's flashfloods still haunt them," he said but hoped that with the passage of time, the memories will fade and people will feel confident to undertake the yatra.
The ongoing elections in different parts of the country is another reason why people are not coming.
There will be a rise in the number of people visiting the temple after the conclusion of the poll process on, he said.
Pilgrim traffic to the shrine has seen a 90% drop this year, sources in Kedarnath-Badrinath temple committee said requesting anonymity.
On being contacted, Chief Minister Rawat said commendable job had been done by the BRO and PWD on reconstruction and repair of road network on the chardham route despite vagaries of weather.
However, toning up infrastructure in the shrine area will continue throughout the yatra season and there is no reason why pilgrims should be afraid of undertaking the journey.