Char Dham pilgrimage ensues amidst traffic snarls, GMVN witnesses heavy rush
With mercury soaring to above 40 degrees Celsius, the pilgrimage to the Char Dham shrines crawls from Haridwar on National Highway. Due to the weekend and summer rush, pilgrims spent hours on road in the scorching heat on Sunday. With the weekend and Somvati Amavasya Snan coinciding, the district administration had made ample arrangements with route diversions but the city seemed to be bursting at its seams. The Char Dham shrines in Uttarakhand are witnessing a phenomenal rush this year after the Yatra kicked off early in May. Amidst the never ending problems of long traffic snarls on the national highway which passes through the city, the pilgrimage rush moved on Sunday choking the city at major crossings.
Pilgrims were seen running from one Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN) booking office to another with two days wait for Char Dhams. Poonam Wadhwa, who had come from Rewari, Haryana to go to Kedarnath had a tough time buying ticket for Gaurikund. Speaking to this correspondent she said, “I wish to go to Kedarnath and so came in the morning to register myself. The officials said there was no seat vacant for Monday. Then after repeated requests I was given one seat till Sonprayag in a GMVN bus from where I shall head for Phata to catch a helicopter to Kedarnath. It is pretty tough in this mad rush and heat.”
With biometric system of registration for Char Dham by the government, the pilgrims had to come to Rahi motel for getting their registrations done. Getting advance tickets and then registration was inconvenient for many with long queues seen outside registration office.
The construction of flyover on the national highway near Singh Dwar and other pending road works of broadening of national highway along the stretch to Rishikesh and Dehradun are the major bottlenecks causing the traffic jams. At places, the highway has been broadened to the maximum limit but at most of the junctures, the work is half done. On narrow bridges, the vehicles are bound to crawl at snail’s pace.
Scorching heat, smell of diesel coming from vehicles and noisy horns marked the lives of many this weekend. The alternate hill by pass route which remains closed, forces the administrative officials to divert the traffic via Kankhal area making the locals pass through narrow lanes to reach their business shops and places of work.
Pramod Kumar who came with his friends from Jalandhar said, “The national highway was totally packed. One mile long distance between Chandighat and Shankaracharya Chowk was covered in an hour and people coming from Dehradun were diverted through Bairagi camp area covering extra 10 kilometres to reach the main city so one can imagine the pace of vehicles in the Har ki Paidi area stretch.”
The traffic problem seems to worsen with each passing day and the highway broadening work is not coming to end. The rising mercury is adding to the people’s woes while the local administration and police are passing the buck to national highway authority of India for delaying the highway work. The result is traffic snarls for hours on the national highway on weekends.
Not only the tourists but the local residents also feel the heat on the weekends during May and June in the tourist season with routine life thrown out of gear. The pressure on roads starts increasing on Friday afternoon when people from northern parts of India start coming for the long weekend. The situation persists till Monday, the start of the week.
Taking cognizance of the rising incidents of accidents from the potholed roads and lackdiasicial attitude of the NHAI officials in repairing the roads, the district magistrate of Haridwar has cautioned the officials to be ready for penal action if any accident was reported on account of potholes left unpatched on the National highway. Also he has appealed to the public to ask for compensation in hit and run cases.
When asked, the former environmental engineering professor of Roorkee University (now IIT) and Asian Institute of Technology Bangkok, Professor DS Bhargava said, “Until the national highway expansion work is completed, the holy city would keep having long traffic snarls. The traffic jam occurs mainly when small cars and bikers in haste come in haphazard manner and queue up on wrong side. Such persons must be heavily penalised.”
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