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Slower Char Dham yatra would be good for pilgrims' health, economy

Dehradun: In view of the increasing number of fatalities on the Char Dham yatra route this year, many are rooting for a 'slower Char Dham yatra' on the lines of the pilgrimage conducted earlier.
Recalling how pilgrims earlier progressed on the yatra route, taking several halts before reaching the shrines, 76-year-old PC Joshi, who undertook the yatra in the 1970s, said, "There was a gate system, which allowed one-way traffic at a time. So if the vehicle movement started from Rishikesh, no vehicles would be allowed to start from Devprayag. There were halts at every 20 km and fixed timings for the flow of traffic from one side. As the journey was slow and with breaks, the local economy of the towns along the yatra route flourished, which in the long run resulted in less migration."
He added that this system was also beneficial for the health of pilgrims. "By taking sufficient halts, pilgrims got acclimatized to the weather and there were fewer casualties."
As reported earlier, the Uttarakhand government is mulling a 48-hour acclimatization window for pilgrims in the state following an unprecedented rush and a high number of deaths this year.
Pointing out that acclimatization and a slower Char Dham pilgrimage would have benefits, social activist Anoop Nautiyal was of the view that elderly people faced problems in adjusting themselves to the dip in temperature, especially on the trek route.
"Earlier, we had the concept of chatti- a small place where pilgrims took a halt- but now it has ended and within a few hours, people reach the shrine where at night time, temperatures can dip close to zero degrees. So this is likely to cause problems," he said.
Rudraprayag resident Alok Negi, 47, recalled how his father narrated his stories about the strong bond between the pilgrims and locals during the earlier yatras.
"The bond was so strong that in the 1970s and 80s, locals even provided accommodation to pilgrims for night halt without any hesitation. In many cases, locals helped the pilgrims and vice versa. People are moving out of villages and small towns in search of jobs now and if such a system is brought back, it will be a major boost for the people of the hills and give a shot in the arm to the local economy in these places," said Negi.

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