Traffic Jams, Pricey Essentials Hit Uttarakhand as Surge in Tourists Throws Life Out of Gear in Hill State

Dehradun: Long serpentine queues of vehicles on national highways leading to Kedarnath, Badrinath, Nainital, Mussoorie and many other hill stations have literally thrown life out of gear in Uttarakhand.

With soaring temperature in the plains, people are rushing to the hills for respite and this sudden surge has led to a chaotic situation.

Tourists are complaining about the shortage of fuel at petrol pumps and cash at ATMs. Many of them even grumbled about lack of proper accommodation or when available, of its exorbitant price.

“We travelled 45 km from Badrinath to Joshimath in nine hours. There is hardly any fuel available at petrol pumps and no rooms available for stay. Never come here in June. Restaurants running out of food also and turning people away,” wrote Vikash Malik, a tourist from Ghaziabad, on Facebook.

The Char Dhams – Yamnotri, Gangotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath — attract a large number of visitors.

So far, this year, more than 17 lakh pilgrims have visited the pilgrim spots. The huge rush has led to several problems, including non-availability of cash and fuel.

Aman Kaushal, a pilgrim, said rooms at Char Dham routes were available, but they were as expensive as Rs 6,000 for a night, while only bedding was being offered for no less than Rs 1000.

Amid complaints, Rudraprayag District Magistrate Mangesh Ghildiyal, donning a kurta pyjama and covering his face with a mask, travelled as a pilgrim for a few kilometers to cross-check complaints.

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Nainital DM Mangesh Ghildiyal walks among pilgrims.

“Yes, there are some issues as far as public facilities are concerned. We are looking into it,” Ghildiyal said.

The situation was no better in Nainital and Mussoorie — the two popular hill stations.

In Nainital, the traffic moved at snail’s pace and traffic jams were 15-20km-long.

Despite a high court order to the district authorities on the matter, the traffic situation has not improved this year.

Besides tourists from Delhi and NCR, people from nearby Bareilly, Moradabad and Rampur were also thronging the hill stations.

“We are hardly getting niche tourists, the crowd is unmanageable and to add to the woes, locals are suffering as essential items like vegetables being sold at higher rates,” said Rajshree, a local from Nainital.

Mussoorie also witnessed a messy situation as the traffic remained halted for hours and many tourists were forced to spend nights in vehicles due to lack of accommodation facilities.

Tourism Minister Satpal Maharaj told News18 the condition had worsened as tourists and pilgrims had arrived in larger numbers this year.

Transport Minister Yashpal Arya also made a similar comment, but both of them failed to elaborate on a plan to manage the situation.

Earlier this week, Chief Secretary UK Singh had instructed district magistrates to deploy additional forces to manage the crowd and ensure availability of enough cash, water and fuel.

However, the situation has not improved and as the mercury continued to rise, it’s hard days ahead for Uttarakhand and its residents.

| Edited by: Sohini Goswami

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