The Gangotri shrine, 30 km ahead of the scenic village Harsil, has fallen silent post the June 2013 flash floods. A beautiful town, well guarded by the 5th battalion of Garhwal rifles wants renewal of the char dham yatra for sustaining a livelihood that largely depends on tourism.
“There are no tourists. Generally during this season, hotels and restaurants remain packed. But, last year’s disaster washed away our business too,” Anuj Semwal, a local shopkeeper told HT.
Situated on the banks of River Bhagirathi, Harsil is one of the main tourist attractions in Uttarakhand. Enveloped by the dense Deodar forests, it is also known because of the local produce- rajma (kidney beans), apples, potatoes and apricots. The flash floods last year took away the soul of the hill station.
Rakesh Mehta, caretaker of a hotel in Harsil said, “Harsil was unaffected by last year’s flash floods but as the national highway was damaged, tourists fear coming here.”
Ranjeet Chauhan, 28, owner of Rajat hotel in Bhatwadi, Uttarkashi continues to face a tough time, despite the ongoing char dham yatra. With only a handful of tourists, his daily business has fallen to `500 a day from the `10,000 he used to earn every day in 2011.
“In 2012 Bhatdwadi witnessed a cloud burst followed by flash floods in June 2013. I am not even able to pay the rent of my hotel and restaurant,” he said.
Similar conditions prevail in Dharali, Gangnani, Bhaironghati, Matli and Lanka that fall ahead of the Gangotri shrine. “Our livelihood depends on the yatra season. Eating, educating our children and managing other expenseshas become difficult,” said Bharat Nautiyal, a shopkeeper at the Yamunotri shrine.