5 years of Kedarnath tragedy: Not many takers for all-weather road project
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5 years of Kedarnath tragedy: Not many takers for all-weather road project

Those who made a fresh beginning are yet to gain foothold. Now, they believe, all their efforts to put their life together would go in vain once again and they blame it on the all-weather Chardham road

dehradun Updated: Jun 15, 2018 22:47 IST
Kalyan Das
Kalyan Das
Hindustan Times, Agastyamuni (Rudraprayag)
Uttarakhand News
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation of the Chardham Mahamarg Vikas Pariyojna in December 2016.(HT File)

Locals in Agastyamuni, a town situated on the banks of River Mandakini in Rudraprayag, are an agitated lot. The town was one of the worst affected by the flashfloods in 2013 that left more than 6,000 people dead.

People here are still trying to come to terms with the loss of property and livelihood they suffered. Those who made a fresh beginning are yet to gain foothold. Now, they believe, all their efforts to put their life together would go in vain once again and they blame it on the all-weather Chardham road.

Prime minister Narendra Modi in December 2016 had laid the foundation of the Chardham Mahamarg Vikas Pariyojna (CMVP), or Chardham Highway Development Project. The Rs 12000-crore project will ensure uninterrupted all-weather safe journey for pilgrims to the four Himalayan shrines — Badrinath, Gangotri, Yamunotri and Kedarnath — through a network of roads spanning 900-kilometres. It is likely to be completed by 2020.

Locals in Agastyamuni claim that project is “bound to break the backbone of the economy of towns and villages” falling on the Chardham route.

Surendra Chamyal, 36, lost his property in the 2013 floods. He now runs a tea shop. Chamyal fears hardships will only increase for people like him once the all-weather road is ready.

“We already suffered much loss in 2013 and are since then collecting bits and pieces in an effort to again stand on our own. But it seems, this highway project will make us bleed again as it would bypass Agastyamuni en-route Kedarnath,” says Chamyal.

The other reason why Chamyal is worried: norms say no shops will be allowed to come up within 200 metres of the road. “If one wants to open any kind of shop within 200m of the highway, then they will have to take permission from at least seven departments. How would a poor man like me afford to do that? The highway will lead to an increase in the number of pilgrims but would end our income,” he says.

Another local, Digamber Gosain, who works as a road contractor in the area, claims that the locals were not being allotted Chardham road project works.

“After losing my 17-year-old cables and wires business in the tragedy, I somehow got into small-time road construction business. I have now managed to regain my old financial position and am supporting my family. After the inception of this big project, we thought we would also get some work in it, but we have been kept out of its purview,” says Gosain.

The contractor allotted the work was not hiring any local labourers, he says.

The deadline for completion of the ambitious project was earlier this year extended to 2020.

Union minister of state for road transport and highways Mansukh Lal Mandavia had told Lok Sabha that “construction work on the Char Dham project has been started and the project is targeted to be completed by March 2020”. The prime minister’s office has been directly monitoring the project.

As part of the project, 15 big bridges, 101 small bridges, 3596 culverts, and 12 bypass roads would be constructed. Besides, 29 landslide zones, falling on the highway, would be treated.

First Published: Jun 15, 2018 22:47 IST