DEHRADUN: Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Dhami late Friday revised his government’s guidelines on the pilgrimage to four key shrines, announcing a ban on VIP Darshan and urging the youth to allow seniors to move ahead amid a rise in deaths being reported in a span of last 10 days.
Dhami’s directions came hours after The New Indian had reported the grave casualties in a short span following the commencement of the yatra on May 3, in what could still potentially pave the way for a disaster bigger than 2019, 2018 when 90 and 102 people had died overall.
“The unfortunate deaths in the Yatra routes did not happen due to stampede or lack of arrangements but due to other health issues. I appeal to the youth travelling to the Char Dham shrines to let the women and elderly go first for Darshan,” Dhami remarked, in a response to the casualties reported by The New Indian.
The New Indian had highlighted the unprecedented spurt in deaths of pilgrims, clocking 28 on Friday.
“We are monitoring the Char Dham Yatra 24×7. Since the yatra could not take over the last two years due to COVID, the number of pilgrims has increased four times. We understand the challenge and we are equipped to deal with this,” Dhami added.
Earlier in the day, Uttarakhand chief secretary (CS) SS Sandhu went into a huddle with director general of police (DGP), secretary tourism, road transport and the district magistrates of three districts of Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Uttarakashi after CM’s announcement.
“CS issued strict instructions to the officials to manage the yatra properly. Deaths have brought attention from Centre including the PMO. The government wants to control any further mishap,” said a senior official.
Shailja Bhatt, director general (DG), medical health & family welfare, Uttarakhand had told the New Indian, “In almost all these unfortunate losses of lives, the reasons, which have come to the fore, include cardiovascular diseases including hypertension which led to cardiac arrest, heart failure in many cases along with Covid infection-induced complications and other comorbidties.”
The yatra comes at a time when Dhami is seeking re-election following his embarassing loss from Khatima in the assembly elections held earlier this year. Dhami had lost the Khatima seat to Congress candidate Bhuwan Chandra Kapri even as the BJP had won 47 while the Grand Old Party could settle with only 19 seats. Dhami is now contesting from Champawat, a seat vacated by his party colleague Kailash Chandra Gahtori.