10 days before Chardham Yatra begins, govt yet to appoint chopper operators
With only 10 days remaining for the Char Dham Yatra to begin, the civil aviation department is yet to appoint chopper operators for carrying passengers to the Kedarnath shrine, situated at a height of 3,583 metre in the Himalayan region.dehradun Updated: Apr 17, 2017 20:39 IST
DEHRADUN: With only 10 days remaining for the Char Dham Yatra to begin, the civil aviation department is yet to appoint chopper operators for carrying passengers to the Kedarnath shrine, situated at a height of 3,583 metre in the Himalayan region.
The state government had last week cancelled the tender awarded to a private operator by the previous Congress government in December 2016. The government cited that the contract terms were not fulfilled by the company.
According to the officials, a fresh process for appointing the chopper operators has been started, which is likely to be completed in 10 days.
Portals of Gangotri and Yamunotri shrines will be thrown open to pilgrims on April 28, while those of Kedarnath and Badrinath on May 3 and May 6, respectively.
People involved in the tourism industry said that the “delay” in finalising chopper services would impact business, especially the high-end pilgrims, who prefer chopper services for flying to the Kedarnath shrine.
“Bookings for the Char Dham Yatra, including that for the Kedarnath shrine, begin way in advance. It is already quite late…the aviation services should not only have been finalised by the government by now but also widely publicised across the country,” said Prateek Karanwal, coordinator, Char Dham Hotels Association.
“Pilgrims planning to visit via chopper would continue to be clueless till the last moment…this will only affect the state’s image as a tourism hub,” said Abhishek Negi, a tourist operator based in Rudraprayag district.
Civil aviation officials, however, denied that the timing of the selection procedure would affect tourists in any way. “We have invited expression of interest (EOI) with specific core conditions from potential firms by April 24 and should be able to finalise the operators by April 27. After that, a period of 3-4 days is required for DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) inspection, so the process will be over before May 3 when the Kedarnath shrine opens,” additional secretary (civil aviation) R Rajesh Kumar told HT.
The six-month-long pilgrimage to the four holy Hindu shrines forms the backbone of the rural economy in the Garhwal region. Over 14 lakh pilgrims had visited the Char Dham shrines last year, with Kedarnath contributing around 3 lakh pilgrims.
Last year, more than 13 private chopper operators had been granted permission to fly in the Kedarnath region. During the peak season, the choppers took 1400 to 1500 pilgrims to the Himalayan shrine daily.
Kedarnath shrine was the epicentre of the 2013 flashfloods. Since then pilgrims have shown an increased inclination to use the ‘safer’ air route. The choppers cut a treacherous foot trek – which spans across around 16 km crisscrossing steep mountains and rivulets – to a less than 10-minute air ride.