People from Uttarakhand who are living in the city are appalled by reports of rape, loot, chopping of legs and hands for stealing gold ornaments and biscuit packets being sold for Rs 150.
“This is unlike the Uttarakhand to which I belong. My head hangs in shame after going through these reports,” said noted environmentalist and former Geological Survey of India director VK Joshi. “If this continues, religious tourism in the state would be hit. The economy of Uttarakhand thrives on tourism and 70% of tourists visit the state for pilgrimages. If they are looted and raped, then the locals would have only themselves to blame for a fall in the number of pilgrims from next year,” he added.
Joshi also said he hoped the authorities would now pay attention to the problem of poverty in the hill area. “Most of the Uttarakhand residents, despite working hard, are not even able keep their kitchen fire burning. The authorities would also have to look after problems posed by outsiders, who have built a permanent base in Uttarakhand.”
However, scientist at the Birbal Sawhney Institute of Paleobotany (BSIP) CM Nautiyal said, “I don’t believe that Uttarakhand residents can do this. There are some foreign migrant labourers who are indulging in this loot. Uttarakhand residents, on the other hand, have helped tourists survive by offering them food and shelter.” Still, he said, there have been cases of loot and rape, which would reflect on the number of pilgrims next year.
Former deputy accountant general PP Pant, who has settled in Rajajipuram, said, “Traders at Gaurikund and Kedarnath have come from other places. They were the ones to exploit victims by offering a packet of biscuits at Rs150. The common Uttarkhand resident is not as clever as to take advantage of such a situation.”
Chartered accountant Deepesh Pant said, “There are black sheep in every community but it doesn’t mean the whole area is unsafe. I believe all trouble-mongers would be arrested and punished and tourists would come back to the region.”