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Uttarakhand: Religious tourism hit hard by cancellation of kanwar yatra, low scale chardham pilgrimage due to coronavirus

The cancellation of the annual kanwar honest and restrictions on the chardham yatra due to the COVID-19 pandemic have badly hit those that earn their dwelling from non secular tourism in Uttarakhand.

The chardham yatra last season generated over Rs 1,100 crore with a document 36 lakh devotees visiting Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri and Gangotri nevertheless it has drawn virtually a clean this year, in accordance to Haridwar Vyapar Mandal’s district president Suresh Gulati. Hotels, ashrams, visitor homes and dharmashalas within the temple cities of Haridwar and Rishikesh used to be bursting on the seams at this time of the year as a result of of kanwariyas (Shiva devotees) and the heavy inflow of pilgrims on the best way to the well-known Himalayan temples.

The necessary adherence to COVID-19 protocol like social distancing, sporting of masks and the ban on touching the idols, coming into the sanctum sanctorum of the temples, distribution of prasad and putting the bells have additionally dampened the keenness of pilgrims.

Haridwar: Har Ki Pauri Ghat wears a deserted look during 'Somvati Amavasya' on the third Monday of the Hindu 'Sawan' month, amid the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown, in Haridwar, Monday, July 20, 2020.

Haridwar: Har Ki Pauri Ghat wears a abandoned look throughout ‘Somvati Amavasya’ on the third Monday of the Hindu ‘Sawan’ month, amid the continuing COVID-19 lockdown, in Haridwar, Monday, July 20, 2020.
(
PTI
)

“All businesses which depended on the arrival of tourists and devotees have been severely hit by the total ban on kanwar yatra and a low-scale chardham yatra which is open only for pilgrims from the state,” Gulati said.

He said the lockdown “wasted” the primary two months of the yatra thought-about its peak with no devotees allowed to go to the temples through the interval.    “A limited and conditional opening of the temples for only residents from within the state on July 1 with a number of restrictions in view of Covid has evoked a lukewarm response from people. The cancellation of kanwar yatra has come as the last nail in the coffin for traders in Haridwar as hotels, ashrams, guest houses and dharmashalas are all empty,” Gulati said.

Mahashivratri and Somvati Amavasya fell on July 19 and July 20 respectively however the district administration put a ban on ritual bathtub at Har ki Pauri in Haridwar on the event when lakhs of individuals converge on the ghat for a holy dip within the Ganga.

Haridwar: Har Ki Pauri Ghat wears a deserted look during 'Somvati Amavasya' on the third Monday of the Hindu 'Sawan' month, amid the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown, in Haridwar, Monday, July 20, 2020.

Haridwar: Har Ki Pauri Ghat wears a abandoned look throughout ‘Somvati Amavasya’ on the third Monday of the Hindu ‘Sawan’ month, amid the continuing COVID-19 lockdown, in Haridwar, Monday, July 20, 2020.
(
PTI
)

All this has dealt a deadly blow to non secular tourism, the mainstay of the state’s economic system, Gulati said.   Despair grips resort and restaurant homeowners moreover merchants who promote Gangajal (Ganga water) and rudraksha to devotees, he said.

Two weeks of kanwar yatra used to generate income price Rs 150 crore in Haridwar however sadly it has come to nil. If one provides Rishikesh, Gaumukh and Gangotri to the record, the enterprise would contact Rs 500 crore each year. All that has plummeted to zero this year with the extended lockdown and the cancellation of the kanwar yatra, Gulati said. “Many small traders like Kanwar artisans as well as other street vendors  depend heavily on this yatra for their earnings. They make enough money during the period to sustain themselves through the year. Kanwar yatra cancellation has hit them really hard. Our appeal to the government is to extend financial assistance to them so that they could survive,” he said.  The cancellation of kanwar yatra has additionally hit the merchants of Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Haryana who used to take stalls on lease on the kanwar honest.

“Tourism, especially religious tourism, is the backbone of Uttarakhand’s economy which has been battered hard by the ban on kanwar yatra and the limited scale chardham yatra. Haridwar alone has incurred a loss worth Rs 1.5 billion due to the ban,” Bharatiya  Udyog Vyapar Mandal’s nationwide secretary Kailash Keshwani said.

Uttarakhand, July 20 (ANI): A woman devotee takes a holy dip in the river Ganga on the occasion of Somvati Amavasya, in Haridwar on Monday.

Uttarakhand, July 20 (ANI): A lady devotee takes a holy dip within the river Ganga on the event of Somvati Amavasya, in Haridwar on Monday.
(
ANI
)

“It is a big challenge for us to meet our establishment costs and bear the burden of taxes amid the financial setback caused by a limited chardham yatra and a ban on kanwar yatra. We look to the government with great hope to bail us out of this crisis,” Haridwar Hotel Association president Ashutosh Sharma said.  The COVID-induced lockdown has already prompted bus operators on the chardham yatra route round 22 crore through the peak yatra months of May and June, in accordance to former president and director of the Chardham Yatra Joint Rotation Travel Arrangement Committee Sudhir Rai.

Similarly, taxi, max and tempo operators have suffered a loss of round Rs 30 crore through the interval. “If things go on like this transport business will suffer losses worth Rs 115 crore by November this year,” he said.                 

Hotel Association of Rishikesh president Madan Nagpal said usually enterprise completed within the peak yatra months of May and June have been sufficient to take care of their annual bills however the losses suffered throughout these months this year have “broken the back of hoteliers”. 

Hotels have now been opened conditionally however the restrictions imposed in view of the COVID-19 pandemic are so extreme that vacationers would fairly want not to come even when allowed, Nagpal said, “In a bleak business scenario like this when hoteliers have to pay their staff without any income, the government should exempt hotels from paying the fixed charges on consumption of electricity, give them waiver from payment of municipal corporation taxes and liberalise the restrictions for tourists in a bid to put tourism back on track.”

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