UTTARAKHAND: Former Uttarakhand chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat who was ousted before completing his term in March this year has written a letter to incumbent CM Tirath Singh Rawat 'advising' him to open Char Dham Yatra.
The letter by the former CM dated May 31, 2021 stated that keeping in mind the livelihood of people associated with tourism sector including religious tourism, the state government should allow vaccinated tourists to travel in the state.
The former CM also urged the CM to start adventure tourism and ensure vaccination of people associated with the sector among other suggestions. Sources from the government told The New Indian Express that the letter has been received but denied to confirm any development in connection to the issues raised in the letter.
However, officials of the state government last month had said that the Yatra can be opened for selected districts of Uttarakhand only if the COVID-19 situation further improves. The yatra has been suspended this year with only rituals allowed to be performed by the priests to uphold the tradition.
Last year, the yatra started for pilgrims of Uttarakhand on July 1, 2020 while for the pilgrims from outside the state the yatra was opened on the last week of July 2020. In comparison to 2019, when more than 38 lakh pilgrims visited the Char Dham, numbers came down to 4.2 lakh in 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier last month, Uttarakhand High Court, commenting on the Mahakumbh and Char Dham Yatra, said that Uttarakhand is causing embarrassment to its own people and questioned why the state cannot learn from its mistakes.
Last year, as religious tourism has got hit badly in Uttarakhand due to the COVID-19 pandemic, priests from Haridwar opted for odd jobs including working as factory workers. Many priests from the holy city including the 'Ganga Temple' at Har ki Pairi have opted to work in factories in evening shift to sustain themselves.
The pandemic hit religious institutions so hard that providing salaries and ration became difficult for the temples in Haridwar. Meanwhile, with declining number of active cases in Uttarakhand demands from the hoteliers and people associated with the sector have started emerging.
Praveen Sharma, president of Nainital Hotel and Restaurants Association said, "The government has not been helping and we have to sustain ourselves. It is not two years in row we are suffering losses. This effects livelihood of lakhs of people in Uttarakhand. The government should open tourism in phased manner and allow those who have been vaccinated already."