The Vijay Bahuguna government in Uttarakhand has announced that a limited edition of the Kedarnath pilgrimage will resume from October 5, but as one moves beyond Agastmuni in Rudryaprayag district, one cannot help but wonder how safe any such journey will be.
The journey from Rishikesh to the Kedarnath shrine used to be a delight until the June 16 cloudburst - the picture postcard scenery on either side, the shops selling souvenirs and food items along the Rishikesh-Kedarnath highway, and of course the smooth, wide roads.
Now, between Agastmuni and Guptkashi, also in Rudyaprayag, there is no real road. The Border Roads Organisation (BRO), which takes care of the national highways, has created a temporary track that is slippery, making the tyres skid. "We are forced to travel on temporary and very bad roads since we have no option," says RS Negi, a local hotel owner at Guptkashi, a pilgrimage spot en-route Kedarnath shrine.
Chief secretary Subhash Kumar, however, assures more than 500 PWD workers are repairing the Gaurikund-Kedarnath trek. "We have done the homework and ready to welcome pilgrims," claims the district magistrate of Rudraprayag, Dileep Jawalkar.
Nonetheless, the opposition BJP has questioned the idea to resume the pilgrimage. "What is the need to put pilgrims at risk when the infrastructure is not there. The government just wants to earn brownie points," says Ajay Bhatt, leader of opposition.